The South China Sea is a significant maritime shipping route with abundant submarine and fishing resources. Over 40,000 ships pass through the South China Sea every year, constituting around 50% of global shipping and 66% of crude oil. In particular, 30% of Korea’s import cargo and 90% of energy imports pass through this body of water. The US and China realized the significance of this sea area from early on and are embodying national interest through maritime security at the national strategic level by implementing the ‘Indo-Pacific’ and ‘One Belt One Road’ strategies, respectively. Such geopolitical conflicts are manifested in the ‘freedom of navigation operations’ by the US in the South China Sea. Despite its significance, there is a lack of studies in Korea on the freedom of navigation operations, and most previous studies only focus on analyzing international law and agreements. This article examines the origin and background of the strategic perception of the freedom of navigation operations and derives implications for the peace and security of the Korean Peninsula as the strategic competition between the US and China continues.