The Japanese government has approved a local company to export hydrogen fluoride, a semiconductor industrial material, to South Korea. Yonhap reported on the 16th, according to sources, the Japanese government recently for a Japanese company to South Korea exports hydrogen fluoride “green light.” It was the first time Japan had approved the export of hydrogen fluoride since it imposed export control measures on South Korea in July. The Japanese government imposed export controls on fluorolylamide, photoresist and high-purity hydrogen fluoride on July 4 against South Korea, and will no longer include South Korea on the “white list” of countries that have access to trade facilities at the end of August.
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These three products are important raw materials in the manufacture of electronic products such as integrated circuit chips and smartphones. Under Japan’s new rules, Japanese companies are required to apply for export licenses to South Korea for each contract, and government approval can last up to 90 days.
South Korea found that Japan was dissatisfied with the South Korean court’s ruling that Japanese enterprises compensate disparagethership of South Korean workers forcibly recruited by Japan during World War II, with economic means of retaliation. South Korea has taken a number of measures, including recourse to the World Trade Organisation. South Korean officials spoke with Japan in early October to try to bridge differences over export controls.
Such dialogues are part of the WTO trade dispute settlement mechanism process. Under this mechanism, South Korea and Japan should first negotiate the settlement of the dispute, and if they fail, the ROK can apply for WTO arbitration.
In addition to hydrogen fluoride, the other two products were exported after control in August and September, respectively. Analysts told Yonhap that Japan’s release of hydrogen fluoride exports to South Korea seems to be an attempt to “implicitly” show that Japan’s export controls and the WTO’s international trade norms are not inconsistent.
Japan’s export controls on South Korea have affected other areas of bilateral relations, leading to a deepening of confrontation between the two sides. South Korean Prime Minister Lee Lo-hyun met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in October and forwarded a personal letter from South Korean President Moon Jae-in. The letter mentioned that South Korea and Japan should ease tensions at an early date.