Friday, 11 July 2008

South Korean Parliament to open inquiry into beef deal with U.S.

SEOUL: The new Parliament in South Korea agreed Thursday to investigate government negotiations with Washington on resumed U.S. beef imports, as it convened for the first time since an opposition boycott over the beef dispute.
The planned inquiry is a blow to President Lee Myung Bak, whose leadership has been undermined by a wave of protests against the beef deal for the past two months. The investigation comes as protests show signs of subsiding and could rekindle heated public debate.
The investigation was a key demand from the main opposition Democratic Party to end its boycott of the National Assembly, which had not convened since lawmakers started a four-year term on May 30.
But the governing Grand National Party agreed earlier this week to accept an inquiry, and Parliament is to be formally opened Friday, when Lee will address lawmakers.
The opposition has contended that the beef deal, struck in April and amended last month, is flawed because it could expose the country to mad cow disease. The liberal party also has accused the pro-U.S. government of reaching the deal just hours before Lee's first summit with President George W. Bush in an effort to kowtow to Washington.

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