The U.S. will work toward reforming its five-year-old free trade agreement with Korea.
That's according to U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, who was speaking at an event in Seoul on Tuesday hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce, his last stop in the country.
"Despite the strong ties between the U.S. and Korea, we have to be honest about where our trade relationship is. Most concerning is the fact that the U.S. trade deficit with South Korea has more than doubled since the KORUS FTA came into effect."
The U.S. vice president also echoed the sentiments of his boss, President Donald Trump, in his remarks on jobs and trade.
"Our businesses continue to face too many barriers of entry, which tilted the playing field against the American worker and American growth. President Trump has made it clear the U.S. will pursue an America first policy in trade and exchange."
Pence's comments have again raised alarm bells in Seoul.
Concerns were sparked earlier when, as a candidate, Trump had threatened to pull out of the FTA with South Korea, calling it a (quote) "job killing deal" that doubled America's trade deficit with South Korea and destroyed tens of thousands of jobs.
On top of that, a recent report by the U.S. Trade Representative specifically points to South Korea and China as countries that employ unfair trade practices.
At a briefing later in the day, Seoul played down fears about a possible renegotiation of the bilateral trade deal.
"U.S. Vice President Pence's comments on the bilateral trade pact are in line with the U.S. president's trade policy agenda for 2017 that includes a review of major FTAs and a pair of executive orders focused on reducing the U.S. trade deficit with other major countries."
President Trump signed an executive order formally withdrawing the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal soon after he took office and is currently seeking renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
"While acknowledging the administration's earlier actions, Seoul also made clear it will continue to promote the mutual benefits of the bilateral trade pact. It also plans to keep tabs on the U.S. trade deficit and monitor Washington's reviews of its other trade agreements.
Connie Kim, Arirang News."