This paper analyzes the Korean public mindset on the country’s external economic relations in general, and its efforts of market opening in particular, with the Japan-Korea Free Trade Area (JKFTA) as the case in point.
The study examines the way in which the JKFTA was proposed in 1998 and provides an overview of the Korean media’s arguments for, and against, the JKFTA. In doing so, the study argues that Free Trade Agreements (FTA) should be realized, complementary to the multilateral trade liberalization efforts of both Korea and Japan. Until now, these efforts have been taken mostly through negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO) and other multilateral organizations.
The study concludes that an embarkation of official negotiations on the JKFTA would contribute to an opening of mindsets in both countries, as well as promoting stability in the region. It points to a need for concerted and steadfast efforts within both Japan and Korea that would seek to nurture and lead the discussion on the JKFTA in ways that are sensitive to the economic and political aspects of bilateral relations between the two.
[On the inter-Korean talks] It remains to be seen if the more civil atmosphere prior to the Olympics can address the much deeper divide over major substantive issues - in particular, North Korea's nuclear and missile development (which Pyongyang insists is none of Seoul's business) and the almost certain North Korean demands in any future discussions to weaken or dismantle outright the workings of the U.S.-ROK alliance. The critical issue here is whether the ROK is prepared to say 'no' to the inevitable demands from the DPRK, despite the Moon administration's clear desire to improve inter-Korean relations.
The fact that North Korea wants to talk to South Korea makes me cautiously optimistic, but I don’t have high expectations. We need to be careful about not blowing this out of proportion.