South Korean President Lee Myung-bak directed officials to handle policies with the "safety and health of the people in mind" as his government is under pressure to halt American beef imports following a recent BSE case in the U.S.

Lee made the remarks during a weekly meeting with senior secretaries after his economic secretary reported that the government was taking steps to dispel public concern about the safety of U.S. beef while placing its top priority on the health of the people.

"The government should manage policies with consumer prices, jobs, and the safety and health of the people in mind," said Lee.

Lee, however, made no direct mention of U.S. beef.

His remarks came after South Korea's ruling party chief Park Geun-hye urged the government to halt quarantine inspections of American beef until it was confirmed safe for consumption. Quarantine inspections are a key requirement for U.S. beef shipments for getting customs clearance. Halting the process would therefore have the same effect as suspending imports because shipments would not be cleared to reach the local market even if they arrive at the country's ports, according to South Korea's state-run media.

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