"As South Korean farm products and beef are rather expensive and not competitive on domestic and international markets, the country's farmers strongly oppose the imports of these products," Yu Wanli, an associate professor from the School of International Studies at China's prestigious Peking University, told Xinhua.
He said he believed South Korea's robust agricultural interest groups have played a key role in the ongoing protests and the cabinet's collapse.
Wang Hongmiao, a PhD at the Economics Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told Xinhua that "South Korean producers are accustomed to the government's protection of the narrow and limited domestic market. Lee's efforts to expand free trade with other countries definitely will harm the interests of some domestic groups."
Wang said inflation in South Korea's economy has also fanned the public anger at the government. For example, the country's Consumer Price Index (CPI) in May increased 4.9 percent year-on-year, a record high in seven years, Wang said.
The South Korean president obviously has suffered a heavy blow during the beef crisis as his approval rate plummeted to a record low of 17.1 percent last Friday from about 48 percent three month ago when he was first sworn into the presidency.
Analysts said the cabinet's collective resignation was the latest move by the president to ease the mounting tensions over the crisis. Lee faces an arduous task to seek a peaceful and smooth solution to the crisis.
Some observers, however, say it is more important for the president, a former Hyundai Constructions CEO, to listen more to the public and modify his "bulldozer" working style.
"Yielding to the public is the only way for the Lee administration to succeed," the article from Yonhap quoted Kim Min-jun, a professor of Seoul's Kyunghee University, as saying.
Lee now seems to give more heed to public opinions, as he acknowledged on Monday that he failed to fully address the ethical problems of his cabinet members.
"I didn't fully understand the people's high ethical standards required (for cabinet ministers)," Lee said during a meeting with Nicholas Cardinal Cheong Jin-Suk, according to Yonhap.
(Xinhua News Agency June 11, 2008)