Marking a thawing of relations between the Japanese and South Korean governments, the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) has partially removed export restrictions on photoresists to South Korea. As a result, Japanese companies can now obtain a ‘bulk’ license to supply three years’ worth of photoresists to companies like LG, Samsung, and SK Hynix rather than seek approval for each shipment. However not all restrictions have been removed: exports of fluorinated polyimides and high-purity hydrogen fluoride from Japan to South Korea are still restricted.

Earlier this year the Japanese government imposed restrictions on exports of three industrial chemicals to South Korea as a consequence of a long-lasting political conflict. Starting early July, Japanese manufacturers were required to get approvals for individual exports when shipping fluorinated polyimides (used both for LCDs and OLEDs), photoresists, and high-purity hydrogen fluoride (used to make chips, such as LSI, DRAM and NAND devices). And with Japanese companies providing 70% - 90% of the global supply of these chemicals, South Korean firms such as LG, Samsung, and SK Hynix had no other practical options. So the trade restrictions certainly made lives of both South Korean and Japanese companies a lot harder, though it's not clear how much the relatively short-lived policy actually hurt South Korea’s high-tech sector.

Ultimately, it would seem that the two countries have since then been able to find some common ground and increase exports/imports. The Japanese government announced the relaxed rules late last week, with all of this coming shortly ahead of a Tuesday meeting between prime minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean president Moon Jae-in.

In the meantime however, this is just the first step in a larger process of resuming more normal trade relations between the two countries. South Korea and its high-tech manufacturers are still on the receiving end of export restrictions on fluorinated polyimides and high-purity hydrogen fluoride, as those rules remain in place. South Korean authorities are still looking to get the rest of the restrictions removed and to build on this "partial progress" as part of a more fundamental resolution fo the issue.

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Sources: Reuters, The Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry

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  • dropme - Wednesday, December 25, 2019 - link

    What I don't understand is why South Korean bureaucrats are still asking Japan to revoke the restriction measures when their local chemical companies're (supposedly) succeeding in displacing the Japanese suppliers.
  • vanilla_gorilla - Wednesday, December 25, 2019 - link

    Because they're not.

    And Japan is reacting for very good reason here. The Korean Supreme Court ruled that companies in Japan could be held accountable for slave labor during the colonial period of Japan's rule over Korea and started awarding people 100k won a piece. First against Nippon Steel, then Mitsubishi Heavy and then tons of people started suing.

    Problem is, this was supposed to be settled by the 1965 "Treaty on Basic Relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea."
  • khanikun - Wednesday, December 25, 2019 - link

    Your numbers are wrong. 100k won is $85 USD roughly. No one would care if it was so little. There was a court ruling where Mitsubishi must pay 80 mil won ($70k USD) to 23 plaintiffs and 150 mil won ($130k USD) to 5 plaintiffs or their families.

    It's really all chump change to a big company, but the Japanese government cares. Course now it's just a gigantic lawsuit circle jerk between the two countries going through WTO.
  • s.yu - Saturday, December 28, 2019 - link

    In 1965 that was a great deal of money, paid in bulk to the SK government, which the SK government embezzled instead of distributed to victims.
  • TheinsanegamerN - Friday, December 27, 2019 - link

    reparations for crime sof the fathers. They ruled japan is guilty of original sin.

    What a silly place. Surprised japan just rolled over and allowed that.
  • s.yu - Saturday, December 28, 2019 - link

    This time there was no "they", it was the Moon government, largely Moon himself, who hollowed out the original judiciary system that refused to rule as Moon wanted and installed loyalists.

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