South Korea said Thursday that it would send its top trade negotiator to the United States to try to revise an agreement on American beef imports that has set off weeks of demonstrations against the government of President Lee Myung-bak.
Trade Minister Kim Jong-hoon, who negotiated a free trade pact with the United States last year, is to go to Washington on Friday to seek modifications in the terms of a deal to resume imports of American beef, signed in April.
At a news conference on Thursday, Mr. Kim was careful not to describe the meetings with Susan C. Schwab, the American trade representative, as a renegotiation. He called them “additional talks.”
For more than a month, South Koreans have taken to the streets daily to protest the agreement to resume imports of American beef despite widespread fears in South Korea of mad cow disease.
South Korean officials said Mr. Kim hoped to persuade Ms. Schwab to agree that American exporters would not ship beef from cattle 30 months old or older. The April deal did not include age restrictions.
In Washington, Deputy Agriculture Secretary Charles F. Conner said the United States had no intention of amending “national protocols that we have negotiated with the Korean government,” The Associated Press reported.
Even if Washington accepts the compromise suggested by Korean officials, it remained unclear whether that would placate the public. Civic groups have demanded a complete renegotiation of the deal, which they fear does not adequately protect Korean consumers.