South Korea has approached the World Trade Organization (WTO) in connection with measures imposed by China over the deployment of a US missile defense system, Seoul's trade ministry said Monday. Beijing has forced dozens of South Korean retail stores in the country to shut their doors and banned Chinese tour groups from visiting the South.
The moves are seen in the South as economic retaliation for the installation of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system to guard against threats from the nuclear-armed North, which Beijing sees it as a threat to its own military.
The trade ministry asked China to comply with its obligations and raised the issue of possible violation of WTO rules with the Geneva-based organization, minister Joo Hyung-Hwan told Seoul lawmakers. But the move was not a legal step to seek WTO dispute settlement, a spokeswoman for the ministry said. That could mean it was more of a symbolic move intended to raise international awareness.
China is the South's largest trading partner and a major consumer of South Korean electronic gadgets, cosmetics and cultural products including popular TV dramas. Lotte the South's number five business group focused on retail and hotel chains has been hit hardest after it agreed to provide land for the US missiles. Nearly 90 percent of its Chinese Lotte Mart stores have been forced to close either by authorities or angry demonstrations amid growing boycott threats in China against other South Korean firms.