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S.Korea president drops aides over beef crisis

  • Story Highlights
  • South Korean President Lee Myung-bak replaces seven top aides
  • President makes second apology in month over U.S. beef import controversy
  • Seoul seeking to restrict beef shipments to cattle younger than 30 months
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SEOUL, South Korea (CNN) -- South Korean President Lee Myung-bak announced the replacement of seven top aides Friday in the midst of a public outcry over government plans to resume U.S. beef imports.

Losing their jobs in the reshuffle were Yu Woo-ik, Lee's chief of staff, and six chief secretaries, Lee said on national television. He called it a "fresh start."

His new chief of staff is Chung Chung-kil, the president of Ulsan University, who has also served as a policy advisor to various government organizations.

The remake of the Lee administration is expected to continue next week when he shuffles part of his cabinet, a presidential spokesman told the Yonhap news agency.

His administration has been embroiled in controversy since reaching an agreement with Washington in April to allow American beef back into the country after a five-year ban imposed amid concerns of mad cow disease.

Lee issued his second apology in less than a month over the controversy.

In Thursday's apology, Lee promised to secure a guarantee from the U.S. not to export beef from cattle older than 30 months. Older cattle are thought to be more susceptible to mad cow disease.

Under the initial deal, the import of almost all beef, except for a few parts considered at high risk for mad cow disease, was allowed.

There has been no breakthrough in discussions with Washington, although the two sides continue to talk and say progress is being made.

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Lee's first apology came May 22 after a wave of protests followed the announcement that American beef imports would resume.

His support has plummeted in the wake of the protests.

CNN's Sohn Jie-ae contributed to this story.

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