South Korea has complained to the World Trade Organization about China’s moves against the country’s companies, which are apparently in retaliation against Seoul’s decision to deploy a US anti-missile system on the Korean Peninsula, trade ministry said Monday.
“We raised the issue to the WTO Council for Trade in Services on March 17 on whether or not China’s measures against South Korea’s tourism and retail companies are in violation of trade agreements,” Joo Hyung-hwan, minister of the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, told the parliament Monday.
An official from the Trade Ministry said that Seoul made an appeal to the WTO concerning two main non-discrimination clauses – most favored nation and national treatment.
An official lawsuit has not been filed with the WTO due to lack of clear evidence, another official said. "This appeal means that we are willing to expand our responses (to China’s retaliatory actions) one step further to a multilateral level," the official, who asked to remain anonymous, told The Korea Herald.
Since South Korea decided to allow the US to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system in South Korea, China has been taking various unofficial retaliatory measures.
China apparently made a verbal order to local travel companies to stop selling South Korea-related tour programs, including visa services, from March 15.
Following Chinese authorities’ suspension orders and boycotts by consumers, some 90 percent of retail stores of Lotte Group in China have been unable to operate. Lotte had been hit the most overtly by China’s apparent THAAD retaliation after it approved a land-swap deal with the military for stationing the THAAD system earlier this year.
While political analysts see that China is taking incremental measures against Seoul’s decision to allow the US missile defense system aimed at countering North Korea’s threats, China officially denies such allegations.
“China would not admit that the measures are a retaliation over the THAAD deployment, but the (South Korean) government has to point out any possibility,” Joo said.