At press time, South Korea and U.S. negotiators had reached an agreement on reopening that Pacific Rim market to limited U.S. beef exports. On Jan. 13, the two countries agreed to resume imports of U.S. beef, but only lean product or product without bones.

U.S. beef imports, shut off since December 2003, are to restart in late March, reports Yonhap News, but only muscle products (no bones) from cattle 30 months of age and younger are eligible for export.

South Korea proved immovable from its position of prohibiting boned cuts, citing human health concerns. In a losing cause, at least for now, the U.S. had argued there should be no limit on bone products such as ribs, which accounted for almost 60% of U.S. beef imports into South Korea before the ban.

The partial reopening of the South Korean market also bans processed beef products such as sausages and beef patties, as well as beef residuals (cattle intestines) and beef diaphragms of U.S. origin.

South Korea imported 199,410 tons of U.S. beef, worth about $847 million in 2003, says the South Korean Agriculture Ministry.