Korean Economy News
Korean condemns Japan’s export curbs at WTO to muster international support

Lim Sung-hyun and Choi Mira

South Korea has turned to the international stage to campaign against Japan’s de facto retaliatory trade embargo by formerly raising the issue at the World Trade Organization (WTO), while the Korean president on Wednesday reiterated the two states should find a diplomatic solution to prevent a havoc in the second and fourth largest Asian economies.

“It is inappropriate for Japan to take the export control measures against a single country out of political motivations,” said Paik Ji-ah, South Korean ambassador to Geneva at the WTO session on Tuesday, adding that Japan’s claims on “breach of trust” couldn’t be a justifiable reason for such action.

He argued that disruption in Korea’s chip manufacturing can shake up the global IT landscape as Korea is responsible for more than 70 percent of DRAM and half of flash memory chips around the world.

Tokyo announced on July 1 that it will curb Korea-bound shipments of three materials used for chip and display production - fluorinated polyimide, photoresists and hydrogen fluoride etching gas, in what is widely viewed as retaliation for the recent Korean court ruling ordering Japanese firms to compensate wartime forced laborers. Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix, the world’s two largest memory chipmakers, and LG Display, the largest display maker, entirely rely on Japanese supplies.

Seoul reacted strongly after Tokyo implied its action was related to compliance with international sanctions on North Korea.

President Moon Jae-in held an emergency trade conference Wednesday by inviting heads of the country’s top 30 business groups to assure them the government was doing all it can to make Tokyo retract “unjust” export curbs while planning all possible measures to counteract.

Trade minister Sung Yun-mon in a briefing on Tuesday condemned Tokyo for floating suspicion that some hydrogen fluoride shipped to the South could have ended up in North Korea.

“There is no single evidence behind the claim, Japan should stop making up excuses and show evidence behind its claims,” Sung said.

Seoul accuses Tokyo is trying to justify its export curbs aimed to destabilize Korea’s core component industry by claims of “breach of trust” and non-compliance with U.N. sanctions against North Korea.

Hiroshige Seko, Japan’s trade minister, told reporters on Tuesday that Japan’s export curbs against Korea “are not an issue for negotiation”, an official refusal to Korean President Moon’s proposal for bilateral talks while urging the Japanese government to retract its moves that can hurt not just manufacturers of the two nations but also the global supply chain. He also added the Japanese export control is not in violation of WTO rules.

Meanwhile, the two governments plan to hold a working-level meeting to discuss the export control measures on Friday in Tokyo, according to sources.

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