SEOUL – South Korea has filed an appeal at the World Trade Organization against China’s alleged covert boycott of South Korean goods and services in response to Seoul’s deployment of an American anti-missile system, the trade minister said on Monday.
The Seoul government had appealed to the WTO service council on March 17 to determine if Chinese measures on South Korea’s retail and tourism industries violate WTO regulations, Joo Hyung-hwan said during a parliamentary session.
The appeal does not constitute a legal complaint with the WTO, as it remains to be proved whether China imposed such measures.
However, according to Seoul, Beijing has breached two main WTO clauses, one which refers to equal treatment to all trading partners of a country and the other which advocates non-discrimination of local and imported goods.
Joo hinted at the possibility that China may not admit it is taking retaliatory measures against the THAAD decision, but that authorities are gathering evidence and will also look into the unfair treatment of South Korean companies in China.
His statement came at a time when China has doubled pressure on South Korean products following the announcement on Feb. 7 about the deployment of the United States-made THAAD anti-missile system in South Korean territory.
The South Korean conglomerate Lotte Group was forced to shut down 90 percent of its supermarkets in China, after it provided land for the installation of the THAAD on Feb. 28.
According to China, the radars installed with THAAD – whose objective is to shoot down North Korean missiles – can be used to spy on its military bases and has protested against it since July 2016, when Seoul and Washington agreed on the deployment.
The boycott has spread to the cosmetic industry as products were rejected in large quantities by the customs office.
Furthermore, audio-visual products with performances by South Korean singers no longer available online in China and the tourism industry as Beijing has stopped selling tour packages to South Korea.