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South Korea says near deal with U.S. to salvage trade pact

COLUMBIA, Maryland (Reuters) - The United States and South Korea have resolved most major issues blocking approval of a free-trade deal that had been stalled for three years, South Korean Trade Minister Kim Jong-hoon said on Friday.

"We come to kind of a great deal of progress and everything of course is at the referendum basis," Kim said, meaning it would have to be reviewed by the two capitals.

Once that has been done, "then we will synchronize the same time and date to go into a detailed announcement," Kim said.

The two countries have been meeting this week to try to resolve issues blocking approval of the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, which is known as KORUS and was signed on June 30, 2007.

The pact has been delayed because of U.S. auto and beef industry concerns.

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk had no immediate comment on the talks after an brief final meeting on Friday morning with Kim.

Kim said he hoped progress this week would allow the U.S. and South Korean legislatures to approve the trade deal in 2011.

(Reporting by Doug Palmer; editing by Bill Trott)

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