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South Korean court rules in favor of U.S. beef imports

SEOUL, South Korea (AP)--A South Korean court on Dec. 26 ruled that a legal notice issued by the government to allow the resumption of U.S. beef imports does not violate the constitution.

South Korea's opposition parties and thousands of people petitioned the Constitutional Court to try to block U.S. beef from entering the country by claiming the notice violated their constitutional rights.

The nine-member court rejected the petition, saying that measures in the legal notice intended to protect consumer safety could not be ruled insufficient.

The government issued the notice in late June--the final administrative step required to allow shipments to resume--despite weeks of violent protests by South Koreans concerned about the health risks of eating U.S. meat.

South Korea banned American beef in 2003 after a case of bovine spongiform encephalopahty was discovered in the U.S.

In November, South Korea's supermarket chains resumed selling U.S. beef from cattle younger than 30 months, believed less susceptible to BSE.

Eating meat products contaminated with BSE is linked to variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a rare and fatal human malady.

1 Star WK\17-B

Date: 12/31/08

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