President Lee Myung-Bak on Tuesday signed off on a package of bills needed to implement South Korea's free trade agreement with the United States after it sailed through the US Congress last month.
The signing, a week after the trade pact and 14 related bills passed through parliament, means Seoul is now ready to enter final negotiations with Washington before the FTA takes effect as early as January.
Business groups have hailed the deal as opening a new era for Asia's fourth-largest economy, but opponents fear damage to domestic businesses.
"The FTA is to open up the US market, the biggest market in the world," Lee said during a signing ceremony at the presidential Blue House.
"Let's take good advantage of the Korea-US FTA when prospects of the economy and exports are dim," he said, according to Yonhap news agency.
Lee also called for measures to help farmers and small businesses expected to be hit by the changes.
The 14 related bills include revisions to copyright, patent, customs and other domestic laws, making them compatible with the trade pact.
Seoul and Washington will enter final talks next month covering the compatibility of any outstanding laws and regulations with the FTA, Yonhap said, with the two sides hoping it will come into effect on January 1.
South Korea can expect a boost in exports. But analysts say the main gain will be improved investment conditions, making the country more attractive for foreign investment and foreign services providers.
Export-dependent South Korea already has free trade deals with the European Union, India, 10 Southeast Asian nations and several other states.