Police block protesters trying to march toward the presidential Blue House in Seoul after a candle-light vigil June 7, 2008.(Xinhua/Reuters Photo)
The entire South Korean cabinet Tuesday offered its resignation to President Lee Myung-Bak over US beef dispute, Yonhap news agency reported.
The resignation offer came as a record 1 million people are expected to hold street rallies nationwide Tuesday night in protest against the Lee administration's US beef import deal and other reform policies.
Prime Minister Han Seung-soo tendered his and the cabinet's resignations over a weekly cabinet meeting to take responsibility for the intensifying political turmoil triggered by the government decision in mid-April to unconditionally lift a ban on US beef imports.
According to the report, Lee is expected to selectively accept the offers and replace half a dozen ministers involved in the US beef import deal, including Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan, Agriculture Minister Chung Woon-chun and Finance Minister Kang Man-soo.
Last Friday, all eight senior secretaries to the president offered to resign en masse, holding themselves responsible for the escalating dispute over the controversial beef deal.
Beef from older cattle, which is regarded as posing the greatest risk of transmitting mad cow disease.
As part of efforts to address the public fears over the disease, Lee had a phone conversation with US President George W. Bush last Saturday, and both of them agreed to cooperate to ensure that US beef from cattle older than 30 months is not exported to South Korea.
However, hard-line civic activists and opposition parties still vowed to resist until Lee agrees to renegotiate the beef import deal with Washington to completely ban imports of all dangerous cattle byproducts, including intestines of younger cattle.
(Xinhua News Agency June 10, 2008)