A meeting of the new Indo-Pacific Economic Framework in session on May 23, 2022 in Tokyo, Japan.

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South Korea should prepare for its exposure to US-China technology tensions

Mary E. Lovely (PIIE) and Abigail Dahlman (PIIE)

Policy Briefs 22-8
Photo Credit: EyePress News via Reuters Connect

This research is part of a 2022 series on the Korean economy. For additional research, look under "Recommended."


The stated goal of the US-led Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF) is to create standards that enhance and elevate regional trade and investment flows, but it is clearly aimed at reducing the role of China in global supply chains. As China is Korea’s largest trading partner, US policy discouraging Chinese participation in supply chains has immediate detrimental implications for Korean manufacturers. The United States is the second-most important destination for Korean exports. Given the values of these triangular trade flows, Lovely and Dahlman assess South Korea’s exposure to US demands to remove or reduce Chinese participation in the manufacture of exports destined for the US market. The reliance of the proposed framework on certain standards will likely reduce Chinese participation in IPEF trade networks. Korea may benefit from this trend, but IPEF could also increase production costs for Korean companies, especially in the electronics sector, a problem that would worsen if China retaliates against these companies. To reduce these risks, Korea might find it prudent to reduce its reliance on intermediate goods from China for products it produces for export to the United States. The Korean government should also seek to better understand its exposure to US–China trade tensions and diversify its trade relations. Korean firms should start preparing for supply chain disruptions, perhaps by making investments at home. Korea could also help other IPEF members reduce supply chain disruptions while addressing security concerns over China.

Data Disclosure:

The data underlying this analysis can be downloaded here.

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