The Republic of Korea is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and has signed subsidiary agreements, including trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property and the Government Procurement Agreement. Korea has been a member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) since December 1996. For more information on the visa waiver program, see the report CRS RL32221, Visa Waiver Program, by [author name scrubbed]. Speech by ROK Ambassador to the United States Lee Tae-sik, “The Korea-US Alliance – A Partnership for the Future,” February 7, 2006, Korea Economic Institute Forum, The St. Regis Hotel, Washington, DC; Balbina Hwang, “A Bumpy Road for the U.S., ROK-Free Trade Agreement,” Heritage Foundation Executive Memorandum No. U.S. trade agents say they are not considering involving VWP in trade negotiations. Discussions in the spring of 2006 with U.S. officials. If the VWP or any other immigration issue is included in the free trade agreement, these provisions could fall within the jurisdiction of the House of Representatives and Senate Justice Committees. Seoul wanted to include South Korean company products in the Kaesong Industrial Region of North Korea in the agreement; Washington did not. Differences of opinion have not been resolved, but they have not been able to defeat the agreement, allowing discussions to continue on this issue.  The growing economic interaction between the United States and South Korea has been associated with many disagreements over trade and economic policy.
The intensity of disputes has declined considerably since the late 1980s and early 1990s, in part because South Korea implemented a series of far-reaching market-based reforms in exchange for a $58 billion package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) after the near-fall of the South Korean economy in 1997. In recent years, the United States and South Korea appear to be more adept at managing their trade disputes, so they tend to be less fierce than in the 1980s and 1990s. This is partly due to the quarterly bilateral labour-level trade meetings that have been taking place since the beginning of 2001. Strategic factors, including the strengthening of South Korea`s economic integration with North Korea, have become problems on the bilateral economic front between the United States and South Korea. As part of the free trade negotiations, South Korean officials are trying to ensure preferential tariff treatment for South Korean company products in the Kaesong Industrial Zone in North Korea. In 2003, China overtook the United States as South Korea`s largest trading partner. Many South Korean exports to China are considered intermediate consumer goods that are incorporated into goods shipped to the United States. Second, the korus amendments also aim to promote transparency in anti-dumping and anti-subsidy procedures36. The renegotiated conditions are a direct response to the frequent application of this type of import restriction by the United States.