"Since late 2008, relations between the United States and South Korea (known officially as the Republic of Korea, or ROK) have been arguably at their best state in decades. By the middle of 2010, in the view of many in the Obama Administration, South Korea had emerged as the United States' closest ally in East Asia. Of all the issues on the bilateral agenda, Congress has had the most direct role to play in the proposed Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA), the United States' second-largest FTA after the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Approval by both countries' legislatures is necessary for the agreement to go into effect. The agreement was signed in 2007, but both the Bush and Obama Administrations delayed its submission to Congress, in part due to opposition to the deal. In early December 2010, the United States and South Korea announced they had agreed on modifications to the original agreement. South Korea accepted a range of U.S. demands designed to help the U.S. auto industry and received some concessions in return. In the United States, the supplementary deal appears to have changed the minds of many groups and Members of Congress who previously had opposed the FTA. On October 12, 2011, both chambers of Congress voted to approve legislation (H.R. 3080/P.L. 112-41) to implement the KORUS FTA. As of late October, the Korean National Assembly was debating the agreement. The day after Congress passed the KORUS FTA, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak addressed a joint session of Congress. Lee was in Washington for a State Visit to the White House, the fifth since Barack Obama's inauguration. Various aspects of his trip symbolized the close relationship between the two leaders, as well as the close policy coordination the two governments have forged, particularly over how to handle North Korea."
CRS Report for Congress, R41481