South Korea clothing executives have welcomed the bilateral free trade agreement signed on Tuesday (11 November) between China and South Korea, telling just-style this should provide a boost to the country's clothing exports.

No details on rules of origin and duty elimination have been revealed, but South Korean textile industry insiders are nonetheless optimistic. "In case China opens its clothing market at zero duty immediately, we will have [a] chance to extend our fashion exports to China," Kim Bu Heung, director of the Korea Federation of Textile Industries' (KOFOTI), explained.

"Whereas in case Korea offers zero duty to Chinese apparel, the impact would likely not be very significant since an existing Korea-ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) FTA already grants zero duties to apparel imports from south east Asia," he added.

Kim elaborated that Chinese import duties for South Korean apparel currently average 15.9%, and that Korean apparel exports to China have in recent years been "lower than US$400m per annum."

Meanwhile, market researchers in China suggest the huge popularity of South Korean TV dramas could create opportunities for Korean fashion exporters.

James Roy, a Shanghai-based analyst with the China Market Research Group (CMR), said that "Chinese girls and young women are becoming increasingly fond of niche brands instead of following the pack", and that this trend could come to the advantage of Korean-made higher-priced fashion items.

"The Chinese market is very welcoming to Korean fashion, and the FTA could matter for segments that have production of higher valued products in Korea," he told just-style.