South Korean Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki said Monday the country's government will begin the process to join a massive Asia-Pacific free trade deal, adding it to a growing list of applicants that includes China and Taiwan.

Hong, who doubles as deputy prime minister, made the remarks at a meeting of Cabinet ministers on external economic affairs. The government is expected to submit the application for the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) after reporting the move to the nation's parliament, among other steps.

Hong said given the situation in which China and Taiwan have applied for membership, it "has become difficult to keep the matter to discussions within government offices."