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South Korea's Cabinet offers to resign

  • Story Highlights
  • Major Cabinet reshuffling expected in wake of resignation offers, Yonhap reports
  • Seoul, Washington reached deal in April to end ban on U.S. beef imports
  • South Korea last week delayed ending beef import ban
  • Ban was installed over mad cow disease case in U.S.
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SEOUL, South Korea (CNN) -- Prime Minister Han Seung-soo and the South Korean Cabinet offered to resign Tuesday amid an uproar over an unpopular deal to resume importing U.S. beef, the Yonhap news agency reported.

It was unclear how many of the offers President Lee Myung-bak would accept, South Korean media reports said, but a major Cabinet reshuffling was expected, possibly claiming the prime minister and the ministers of agriculture and foreign affairs.

The move follows a similar resignation offer last week by top Lee aides.

The offers are attempts to defuse a volatile situation that has brought tens of thousands of protesters into the streets of the South Korean capital, Seoul. Video Watch South Koreans protest U.S. beef imports »

The eight staffers said they hold themselves responsible in the collective resignation offer, which was delivered to Lee by his chief of staff, according to Lee Dong-kwan, a spokesman for the president's office.

Washington and Seoul reached an agreement in April that would clear the way for South Korea to resume importing beef from the United States after a ban that lasted several years.

South Korea halted imports amid concerns over a case of mad cow disease in the United States.

The two sides agreed that the United States would not export high-risk materials, like tonsils, brains, spinal cord marrow and a section of the small intestine. It put no age restrictions on the cattle.

But last week, the South Korean government put off the final administrative step needed to resume imports. Without that step taking place, no beef will be imported from the United States.

Animals more than 30 months old are considered at a greater risk for mad cow disease, which can be transmitted to humans.

A South Korean delegation arrived in the United States Monday to discuss the situation with Bush administration officials.

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Scientists believe the disease spreads when farmers feed cattle recycled meat and bones from infected animals.

The U.S. banned recycled feeds in 1997. In humans, eating meat products contaminated with the illness is linked to variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a rare and fatal malady.

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