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South Korea and China’s Power Plays Through Free Trade Agreements with ASEAN

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Since the Asian Financial Crisis, South Korea’s rebound and continuing economic growth has proven that it has the potential to play a major role in the Asian economy. As China continues to grow in world economy, South Korea is showing signs that it does not want to play a secondary role in the Asian economy. It has done this through its proposal of a free trade agreement with ASEAN, and subsequent proposals of trade agreements with Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Thailand. Explicitly, the announcement of the NAEH strategy gives a definitive outline to Korea’s hopes for its future role in growing Asian economic cooperation. Since China has shown no response or reaction, Korea is pursuing these policies not necessarily to counteract China’s influence or to compete with China, but to expand its economic cooperation in the region.

Yesel Lee is a first-year M.A. student at SAIS, concentrating in Korea Studies. She graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a B.S. in Business Administration and a B.A. in Political Science. While studying at Berkeley, she studied abroad in Paris, where she deepened her interest in international affairs and relations. As an undergraduate, she assisted on research on diplomatic relations in Asia and the Middle East, which cemented her interest in Asia. Previously, she worked as a consultant and for an NGO in Mumbai dedicated to empowering and motivating youth to participate in societal development.