SEOUL • South Korea's Trade Minister said yesterday the government's responses against discriminating action by China towards South Korean companies will be strengthened and he feels "deep concern" over recent measures taken by Beijing.
Trade Minister Joo Hyung Hwan made the statement while visiting the US, the ministry said in a statement.
South Korean media said last week that Chinese government officials had given verbal guidance to tour operators in China to stop selling trips to South Korea days after the Seoul government secured land for a US missile-defence system from Lotte Group.
China objects to the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (Thaad) system deployment, saying its territory is the target of the Thaad's far-reaching radar. South Korea and the United States have said the missile system is only aimed at curbing North Korean provocations.
"We will act accordingly to international law against any actions that violate policies of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) or the free trade agreement between South Korea and China," Mr Joo said.
The trade ministry said it would start examining exports to China on a daily basis and any changes to South Korean exporters which do business with China in order to respond as quickly as possible against unfair action.
On Friday, it sent a request to the Chinese embassy in Seoul that South Korean companies investing in China be protected and be shown care.
Data last week showed South Korean February exports to China, its biggest trade partner, posting the best growth since late 2010, driven by sales of intermediate goods such as semiconductors and display panels used for electronics manufacturing.
Economists say the 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.