Japan to Constrict Tech Material Exports for South Korea

Japan & South Korea Flags are waving in the sky with dark clouds.

On Monday, within a growing dispute over South Koreans forced to work for Japanese firms during World War Two, exports of high-tech materials used in smartphone displays and chips to South Korea will be tighten by Japan, an industry ministry said.

On Thursday, slowing the export process by several months, hitting South Korean tech giants, such as Samsung Electronics, SK Hynix, and LG Display, tighter export controls are about to become effective.

Stemming from its top court ruling last October that ordered Nippon Steel to compensate former forced laborers, the step comes amid Tokyo’s growing frustration at what it calls a lack of action by Seoul over issues.

The government planned to lodge a complaint to the World Trade Organization over Japan’s “retaliatory” action, South Korea’s industry minister said.

A Korean minister, Sung Yun-mo said, “Our government expressed deep regret.”

News report said the South Korean foreign ministry summoned the Japanese ambassador. A meeting to discuss plans was also called by the South Korea’s finance minister.

Last month, to create a joint compensation fund for victims with contributions from both nations’ companies, Japan rejected South Korea’s proposal.

An official of the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said, “South Korea has failed to show any satisfactory measures to resolve the forced labor issue … and severely damaged mutual trust.”

In addition, he also said, “As trust has been lost, we cannot have a dialogue and are unable to ensure that proper export controls are being taken.”

Forced use of labor by Japanese companies and the use of comfort women, a euphemism for girls and women, many of them Korean, forced to work in its wartime brothels, are such examples of the bitter history dating to the Japanese colonization of the Korean peninsula from 1910 to 1945.

In 1965, the two countries restored diplomatic ties, denouncing the rulings and urged the launch of an arbitration panel. Japan says the issue of forced labor was fully settled.

The materials used in smartphone displays are to be restricted, including fluorinated polyimides as well as resist and hydrogen fluoride, to make semiconductors used as an etching gas.

To transfer a circuit pattern to the semiconductor substrate, a thin layer of resist Hydrogen fluoride is used.

Seeking of Permission for Shipments

Flags of Japan and Republic of Korea

The ministry official said exports of these three materials to South Korea are required to seek permission each time they want to ship, which takes about 90 days. Preferential treatment for shipments will be stopped by Japan.

On Sunday, on a newspaper, plans were published regarding the chipmakers having difficult time on finding alternatives as Japan produces about 90% of fluorinated polyimides and resist worldwide as well as about 70% of etching gas.

Chipmakers would have to try to build stockpiles as a source at one of South Korea’s top memory chipmakers stated. As much as 70 percent of its resists and etching gas only relies on Japan.

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