The Korean government announced it has officially reported to the World Trade Organization the Chinese government's apparent economic retaliations against Seoul's decision to deploy a US missile defense system in the country.
"We have notified the WTO that China may be in violation of some trade agreements", Trade Minister Joo Hyung-hwan told parliament in response to questions about China's reaction.
Seoul and the United States say Thaad is to counter the missile and nuclear threat posed by North Korea, but China argues its own military capabilities could be affected by the system.
It would be up to South Korea to follow up on its complaint to the WTO for any action to take place, analysts say, either by continuing to raise its concerns and spelling out what China is doing wrong, or by launching a trade dispute.
The ministry said it will provide legal counseling and other consulting services to companies that export goods to China. Finance Minister Yoo Il-ho has continued to say that he is aware of the problem but that it is hard to take action at this time. He did not give further details. As a result, China has ended group tours to South Korea, which has already seen a sharp decline in Chinese tourists in its shopping districts.
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Seoul on Friday raised the possibility that Beijing is violating WTO rules with its actions against South Korea's tourism and retail sectors, Kang Myung-soo, director-general of the trade ministry's trade cooperation bureau, said by text message.
Beijing has also shut nearly two dozen retail stores belonging to South Korea's Lotte Group and suspended almost all music concerts and shows starring Korean actors or singers. It seems that Chinese oil refining companies are now depending on light oil from South Korea due to the lack of their desulfurization facilities and the failure to comply with the environmental requirements on the part of those supplying light oil to Chinese oil refining companies from countries other than South Korea and China. "But everyone knows this needs a corresponding basis in public opinion".
Chinese authorities have also closed almost two dozen retail stores of South Korea's Lotte Group, citing safety concerns.
To mitigate the pressure on the country's businesses, Seoul has offered cheap loans and extended deadlines on existing debt.
Seoul's options, however, look limited.