The government has decided to join the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership and is studying the schedule and potential impact.
"We are considering taking part in the TPP," a high-ranking government official told the Chosun Ilbo. He said Seoul has told China of its decision and won tacit approval.
Beijing worries that the U.S.-led free-trade initiative will sideline it in the global race to access new markets.
Another government official said it is just "a matter of time" before Seoul joins the TPP. The government here is apparently considering making an official announcement of its decision later this month at the earliest.
The TPP is a multilateral free trade agreement that aims to further liberalize the economies of 12 Pacific-rim countries including Australia, Canada, Singapore and Vietnam.