The term “value chain” refers to the whole production process of a good or service from the design and raw material processing to manufacturing and market services for the final customers. A global value chain (GVC) indicates production across multiple countries (Simola 2021). Wang et al. (2017) distinguish between simple and complex GVC activities and classify GVC participation in the following four activities: (i) export its domestic value added in intermediate exports used by a direct importing country to produce products for the importing country’s final consumption (simple GVC); (ii) export its domestic value added in intermediate exports used by a direct importing country to produce products for importing countries’ exports to third countries (complex GVC forward participation); (iii) importing foreign value added in intermediate imports to produce products for domestic use (simple GVC); (iv) importing foreign value-added in intermediate imports to produce products for its gross exports (complex GVC backward participation).
Trade and foreign direct investment (FDI) are considered to be the main driving factors of Vietnam’s economic growth. However, Vietnam’s growth rates became substantially lower in the first decade of the 21st century and even lower after 2008, putting the country in high danger of falling into a middle-income trap (Nguyen and Truong 2022). Overcoming this huge challenge will require Vietnam to make greater progress in GVC participation, which can only be obtained by implementing the appropriate policy reforms and adjustments, particularly in FDI, trade, and industrial and institutional areas. In this regard, assistance and cooperation from Korea – an advanced economy, especially a top trade and FDI partner of Vietnam – would play a significant role in improving Vietnam’s GVCs participation.
Against this backdrop, this study aims to examine Vietnam’s GVC participation. It then assesses the major challenges faced by Vietnam’s GVC participation. Based on this, the research draws relevant policy implications for Vietnam–South Korea (hereafter Korea) economic cooperation to improve Vietnam’s GVC participation in the following years.