U.S. beef imports in South Korea hit the $1 billion mark for the first time last year, data showed Sunday.
According to the Korea Customs Service, U.S. beef imports amounted to $1.09 billion in the January-November period last year. December results would be released on Monday but the number has already surpassed the $966.9 million imports for full 2016. This is the largest figure tallied since the government agency started compiling the data in 2000.
U.S. beef had long been the No. 1 import beef after Korea opened up its beef market in 2001. But the country imposed an import ban in 2003 following the mad cow disease scare and it wasn’t until 2008 that the ban was partially lifted to allow imports of beef from cattle under 30 months old.
The Korean government under then President Lee Myung-bak came under fire for resuming imports despite widespread concern, prompting criticism that the new president was putting the public’s health at risk to push forward the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement that was under negotiation.
But U.S. beef imports rapidly grew following the bilateral trade deal on the back of rising demand and have now returned to levels prior to the import ban.
By Chun Jung-hong and Kim Hyo-jin
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