Korea wants to include in a free trade agreement with China a clause that bans the import of fish from China if Chinese fishermen continue to fish illegally in Korean waters.
The ban will apply to fish caught in the joint fishing zone in the West Sea managed by the two countries according to a bilateral fisheries agreement.
Only about a dozen kinds of fish are caught in the zone, but domestic demand for them is high, and thus a lot is imported from China as well. This is likely to be a source of tensions between the two sides.
But Seoul believes it can include the punitive measure in the FTA because it is a bilateral agreement and the catch does not make up a vast chunk of China's overall fisheries catch.
A senior government official here on Friday said, "There is consensus in the government that the illegal fishing issue in the West Sea must be addressed during the FTA negotiations with China." The relevant ministries hope to link illegal fishing to an import ban.
Another senior official said, "Although the two governments have agreed to work together to crack down on illegal fishing in the West Sea from next year, it is still not binding. Resistance to the FTA from Korean fishermen is greater than ever, so we are reviewing the possibility of stipulating the ban."