Korea is on the front line between two contrasting proposals for regionalism based on economic integration. On the one side is the Chinese effort to establish an exclusive economic bloc in East Asia, starting with ASEAN+3 and the trilateral Sino-Japanese-South Korean summit. Given the growing dependence of the South Korean economy on China and the launching of FTA talks between South Korea and China in 2012, resistance to China’s persistent overtures may prove difficult. On the opposite side are the TPP talks aiming for an agreement at the end of 2012, which Japan has considered joining since November 2011. This agreement would build on the ratification of the Korean-U.S. FTA by both Washington and Seoul in the fall of 2011 if South Korea decided to join. With its emphasis on setting a high standard for economic exchange and corporate governance, this would establish a united front to encourage China to separate politics from economics if it did not want to be excluded from the next wave of institutionalization of economic ties. In a year of elections, South Korea straddles the two possibilities, as the opposition calls for renegotiating the KORUS FTA and the public remains wary of negotiating an FTA with China, deepening dependency.
This section contains the following chapters: