France has formally asked the European Union to begin monitoring car imports from South Korea in the first step towards a possible re-introduction of tariffs.
The request was made in a letter sent Friday to the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, by Arnaud Montebourg, France's Minister for Industrial Renewal.
It is being made under the terms of an EU-South Korea free trade agreement which allows for safeguard measures to be implemented in response to a sudden spike in imports in certain "sensitive" sectors.
Montebourg said France was justified in asking for the move after registering a 50 percent increase in South Korean car imports in January and February of this year.
The monitoring process will require importers to seek prior authorisation from the Commission before bringing any cars into France, he added.
"This will enable us to assess the real impact of the free trade accord in the auto sector and to envisage further moves to be taken if it is shown that the trading relationship is too unequal."
France's move had been expected following comments from Montebourg last month in which he claimed South Korean manufacturers were effectively dumping their cars on the European market.
South Korea's two major manufacturers have made significant inroads into the European market in recent years with Hyundai's sales up 12 percent last year and Kia's up 11 percent.
France's auto industry is struggling in comparison. The country's biggest manufacturer, Peugeot, last month announced first-half losses of 819 million euros ($989 million) and is in the process of axing thousands of jobs.