1st Edition

Politics of East Asian Free Trade Agreements Unveiling the Asymmetry between Korea and Japan

By Byung-il Choi, Jennifer S. Oh Copyright 2021
    136 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    136 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This textbook explains the politics of free trade agreements in Japan and South Korea.

    Examining free trade agreements in Japan and South Korea since the late 1990s, Choi and Oh analyze the role of institutions, political leaders, sectoral interests, and civil society in placing the two countries on alternate paths of free trade agreements at different points in time. Systematically approaching the politics of free trade agreements from each perspective, they expose the domestic political underpinnings of free trade agreements in a global trade order that is increasingly fraught with conflict.

    A valuable textbook for students of international political economy and international trade in East Asia, particularly those focusing on Japan and South Korea. It’s also a useful resource for scholars and policymakers looking to better understand trade politics in East Asia.

    1. Introduction 2. Asymmetric Evolution of Korea and Japan’s FTAs, Late 1990s-2020 3. Trade Policymaking Institutions 4. Political Leadership and Trade Policymaking 5. Civil Society, Interest Groups and FTA Politics 6. Geopolitics and Changing Japan and Korea’s Trade Relations 7. Conclusion


    Choi Byung-il is professor and the former Dean of the Graduate School of International Studies (GSIS), Ewha Womans University (Seoul, Korea). He is also the President of Korea Foundation for Advanced Studies. Most recently, he was the President of the Korea Economic Research Institute, a think tank representing the Korean business sector. He served leadership positions at several academic associations, including the President of the Korean International Economic Association, President of the Korean Association of Trade and Industry Studies, and President of the Korea Association of Negotiation Studies. He was a member of various advisory councils for the Korean government, including the National Economic Advisory Council for the President of Korea, Trade Negotiations Advisory Council, Inter-Korea Relations Council, and Advisory Council for the Ministry of Foreign Affair and Trade. Prior to joining the Ewha GSIS as a founding faculty, he was the Korean chief negotiator for the WTO basic telecom negotiations (1994–1997). His service in the international area awarded him two medals of excellence from the Korean government.

    Jennifer S. Oh is an associate professor at the Graduate School of International Studies, Ewha Womans University (Seoul, Korea). She is a political scientist who specializes in comparative political economy and East Asian politics. Her main research areas are the political economy of Japan and Korea, trade politics, agricultural politics, and East Asian democracy. Recent publications cover topics such as FTA politics in Japan and Korea, agricultural reform and farm group politics in Japan and Korea, and Korean social mobilization.

    "An old saying goes, ‘Good medicine is bitter’. Likewise, trade liberalization has always been a bitter swallow for developing countries including Korea. But why Japan, a large developed economy, was shy for so long a time! The answer, as I’ve found in this book, is whether the political leadership has a vision for the future and is courageous enough to say to the people – ‘let us not keep back but come out and play!’" - Kim Jong-hoon, former Minister for Trade, Korean chief negotiator for the KORUS FTA negotiations

    "Korea and Japan have adamantly advocated the multilateral trading rules while protecting their sensitivities such as agriculture. Korea’s initiative to conclude high quality FTAs with the U.S. and EU stimulated Japan, which became belatedly a hub of Mega-FTAs. As FTAs require fundamental structural changes to keep economic competitiveness as well as to support disadvantaged sectors, the negotiations per se are inevitably politically charged. The authors aptly illustrate contrasting features surrounding the evolution of the FTA policies of the two countries. This volume is a must-read to those who wish to get insights on how trade negotiations are motivated, designed and carried out, particularly in countries which have long protected their vulnerabilities." - Choi Seokyoung, former Korean ambassador to Geneva, Korean chief negotiator for the Korea-EU FTA negotiations