SEOUL, July 7 (UPI) -- South Korean President Lee Myung-bak fired some of his cabinet ministers Monday in the wake of massive protests against the importation of U.S. beef.
But he retained Prime Minister Han Seung-soo even though he and the rest of Lee's cabinet had offered to resign after their April decision to allow the beef imports triggered months of protests, the South Korean Yonhap news agency reported.
The weekly candlelight vigils and demonstrations, culminating in a 50,000-strong protest last weekend in Seoul, had become increasingly violent and prompted a police crackdown last month.
Minister of Food, Agriculture, Foresty and Fisheries Chung Woon-chan was sacked, as was Minister of Science, Education and Technology Kim Do-yeon. But other key ministers, along with Han, were retained, surprising some political observers who also were expecting Han to exit, Yonhap reported.
The newcomers will be faced with a tough political job because South Korea's National Assembly has been paralyzed because of the U.S. beef protests, with opposition party members boycotting the body.