Do Voters Reward Politicians for Trade Liberalization? Evidence from South Korea

Sung Eun Kim, Sujin Cha

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Do voters reward politicians for trade liberalization? We examine this question by analyzing voter responses in South Korea to the US-Korea Trade Agreement. Exploiting a change in party positions on the FTA over time, we examine the effects of different party positions on outcomes in the legislative and presidential elections. We find that voters who expect direct gains (losses) specifically from the treaty increase (decrease) support for the pro-trade party. However, voters in export-oriented industries do not reward politicians for a free trade agreement that does not directly affect their well-being. Our analysis of seven waves of individual-level panel survey data also demonstrates that a short-term change in a candidate’s position on the FTA influences voter decisions in the upcoming presidential election. The findings suggest that voter preferences with regard to trade can materialize into voting behavior when voters have a clear ex ante expectation of specific gains or losses from the trade policy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)751-780
Number of pages30
JournalReview of International Organizations
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Oct


  • Electoral politics
  • Free trade agreement
  • Preferential trade agreement
  • Trade preferences
  • Voting behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Political Science and International Relations


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