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Supreme Court rules on origin of cattle

The nation’s top court has ruled that cattle born in other areas but raised in Hoengseong for a certain period of time can be labeled as “Hoengseong hanwoo,” officials said Friday.

Hoengseong is a rural area in Gangwon Province, about 137 kilometers east of Seoul, famous for its high-quality hanwoo beef. Hoengseong beef is recognized as a premium product, and usually fetches high prices.

Annulling a lower court’s guilty verdicts for three people, including a suspect surnamed Kim, for violating the agricultural products quality control act, the Supreme Court returned the case to the high court, asking it to reconsider its decision.

The three were charged with purchasing some 500 cattle that were born in other regions and raising them in Hoengseong for around two months before butchering them between 2006 and 2009.

They then distributed the beef as Hoengseong hanwoo.

A district court previously delivered not-guilty verdicts, saying there was no clear standard on labelling the origin of domestically raised livestock at the time the crime occurred.

However, an appellate court in February of this year delivered eight-month prison terms or suspended prison terms for the three, saying that two months of raising the cattle in Hoengseong was not enough to label the meat Hoengseong hanwoo.

“The lower court said that cattle raised in Hoengseong for less than two months are not Hoengseong hanwoo. The ruling did not properly interpret the agricultural products quality control act,”

the Supreme Court said in its ruling.

The ruling, however, only applies to cases that occurred before the Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries adopted standards on place of origin for locally raised livestock.

The ministry in May of last year stipulated that livestock should be raised for more than 12 months at a certain area in order for it to be labeled as from there. (Yonhap News)