South Korean Minister of Trade, Industry and Energy Joo Hyung-hwan yesterday said that Seoul’s response against discriminatory actions by China toward South Korean companies will be bolstered and he feels “deep concern” over recent measures taken by Beijing.
South Korean media last week said that Chinese officials had given verbal guidance to tour operators in China to stop selling trips to South Korea days after Seoul secured land for a US missile-defense system from Lotte Group.
China objects to the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, saying its territory is the target of the its radar.
South Korea and the US have said the missile system is only aimed at curbing North Korean provocations.
“We will act according to international law against any actions that violate policies of the WTO or the free trade agreement between South Korea and China,” Joo said during a visit to the US.
The ministry said it would start examining exports to China and any changes to South Korean exporters who do business with China on a daily basis in order to respond as quickly as possible against unfair actions.
On Friday, it sent a request to the Chinese embassy in Seoul asking that South Korean companies investing in China be protected and shown care.
Data last week showed that last month’s South Korean exports to China — its biggest trade partner — posted the best growth since late 2010, driven by sales of intermediate goods such as semiconductors and display panels used for electronics manufacturing.
Economists say THAAD-related backlash is not expected to significantly harm exports to China in the short term, as a bulk of the shipments are intermediate goods, which China uses to manufacture finished products and ships to other countries.
However, government officials are warily watching if diplomatic tensions grow further between South Korea and China at a time when global protectionism is rising.
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