SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- South Korea said Friday it will have an aggressive response based on World Trade Organization rules to a move by Canada to take a bilateral dispute over beef to the global trade body.
Canada is seeking intervention by the Geneva-based WTO to address a more than 5-year-old South Korean ban on its beef over fears of mad cow disease.
The North American country says it is calling on the WTO to begin consultations over a "continuing unjustified ban" on its beef, Trade Minister Stockwell Day said in a statement Thursday.
"We are disappointed to have to launch this action, as we had hoped to resolve our differences through negotiation," Day said.
South Korea banned Canadian beef in May 2003 over fears of mad cow disease.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Seoul said in a statement that South Korea would pursue an "aggressive response" to Canada's move in line with WTO rules.
Canada said that WTO consultations provide an opportunity for parties to resolve disputes through discussions. If consultations fail, the complaining party can ask that the issue be referred to a WTO dispute settlement panel.
Canada argues that the World Organization for Animal Health recognized Canada as a "controlled risk" country in 2007 for beef, the same status as the United States.
U.S. beef was banned from South Korea over mad cow disease worries in December 2003, though restricted imports are now allowed.
The South Korean government's lifting of the ban on U.S. beef led to massive street protests in Seoul last year that shook the government of President Lee Myung-bak and forced it to backtrack on a planned more aggressive reopening of the market to American beef.
Eating meat products contaminated with mad cow disease is linked to variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a rare and fatal human malady.