On Monday, the Lee Administration decided to delay the planned reopening of beef imports from the U.S. that had been scheduled for Tuesday: New Delay on Beef Imports (and Renegotiation?) (Korea-U.S. FTA, June 2). The Dong-A Ilbo describes some of the background discussions within the Lee Administration: The Story Behind the New U.S. Beef Measure (June 4).
The 18th Korean National Assembly was to start meeting this week, but has been prevented by a beef-motivated boycott by the opposition parties: South Korea opposition boycotts legislature (Hyung-Jin Kim, AP, June 5); South Korea parliament impasse stymies Lee reforms (Reuters, June 5).
The leader of the opposition party slammed U.S. Ambassador Vershbow for remarks he made on Tuesday: US envoy to SKorea caught up in beef trade row (AFP, June 5); US Envoy Advised to Speak Carefully (Kang Hyun-kyung, The Korea Times, June 5).
The ruling party also took a hit in municipal elections on Wednesday: Poll rebuff for S Korea president (BBC News, June 5); Election setback spells more woe for SKorea's Lee (AFP, June 5); South Korea ruling party loses in elections(JAE-SOON CHANG, AP, June 5):
The elections were limited in scale, with only 52 seats at stake out of the 3,867 local posts nationwide, and were marred by a low voter turnout. Still, the result clearly contrasted with April's parliamentary elections in which Lee's party won a majority.
The ruling Grand National Party won nine seats, while the main opposition United Democratic Party grabbed 23 seats and the rest went to minor opposition parties or independents.
On Thursday, the government indicated that it did not intend to seek renegotiation of the beef deal: Korea Gives Up Renegotiating Deal (Kim Yon-se, Na Jeong-ju, The Korea Times, June 5). This story reports that the government was looking for U.S. commitments to label meat with the age of the cattle, and to voluntarily refrain from exporting meat from older cattle to Korea. It also noted objections to this expressed by other Koreans, including its voluntary nature, and shortcomings in U.S. documentation of beef ages.
On Friday eight of Lee's senior aides were reported to have submitted their resignations although it was not clear if these had been accepted: SKorea crisis deepens as president's aides offer to quit (Thomson Financial News, June 6):
They submitted their resignations 'to assume responsibility for the current situation,' spokesman Lee Dong-Kwan told reporters.
Yonhap news agency quoted an unidentified presidential official saying that it would clear the way for Lee to reshuffle his team.
On the same day Lee indicated that he would not renegotiate the agreement: S.Korea president says won't re-negotiate beef deal(AFP, June 6). Nevetheless, Lee called Bush on Saturday to ask for help with the agreement: S.Korea's Lee to ask Bush for help over beef fears (Reuters, June 7). The South Koreans subsequently reported that Bush had agreed to unspecified measures to prevent exports of beef from older cattle. In the absence of a renegotiation of the beef agreement, this would be a voluntary export restraint: South Korea gets Bush pledge on beef (CNNMoney.com, June 7).
Poll results this week still showed substantial support for the trade agreement with the U.S., but also substantial support for renegotiation of the beef agreement (New Poll Results Show Support for FTA in Korea, Korea-U.S. FTA, June 8) . Poll results also showed that Lee's approval rating had dropped quite low: President’s Approval Rate Falls to 17% (Kim Sue-young, The Korea Times, June 8).
More than half, exactly, 52.2 percent of 1,000 adults aged 19 or older replied the beef import accord is President Lee's biggest policy mistake....
The second biggest mistake was Lee's lack of communication with the opposition parties and general public, which is regarded as one of the reasons behind the severe protests against the deal, the survey showed.
Lee's third mistake was his push for a cross-country canal project despite the majority of people asked being against it.
His fourth problem was the appointment of under-qualified figures with dubious wealth to Cabinet minister and secretarial positions.
The President received a high score for his business-friendly policies, his plans to downsize government organizations and privatize state run enterprises as well as his efforts to strengthen the country's alliance with the United States.
However, 33.2 percent of respondents said Lee has done nothing well, while 20.2 percent said they could not think of anything he had done well or refused to give an answer.
Meanwhile, the nightly demonstrations continue: South Korean Protesters Clash With Police in Anti-U.S. Beef Rallies (AP via Wall Street Journal, June 8):
The protests followed a familiar pattern -- the main rally being largely peaceful yet turning violent as crowds thinned and remaining protesters confronted police. Violence lasted until after sunrise.
Demonstrators are planning a massive demonstration for Tuesday (June 10) - the 20th anniversary of a pro-democracy demonstration. Can they get the 1,000,000 they hope for: SKorean delegates head to US to discuss beef deal (AFP, June 8).
On Monday, June 9, the Grand National Party (GNP), which holds the Presidency and a majority in the National Assembly, sent a delegation to Washington to discuss available options. (SKorean delegates head to US to discuss beef deal)