South Korea on Wednesday said Japan’s curbs on exports of high-tech materials critical for manufacturing of memory chips could damage the global value chain of technological firms, threatening supply of smartphones and computers.
Representatives of the South Korean government told foreign media that Seoul estimated that the restrictions would "adversely affect companies ranging from Apple to Amazon, Dell, Sony and billions of consumers all over the world”.
"Japan's export restrictive action has the pernicious effect of breaking up this global value chain" and is adverse to the worldwide trade, one of the representatives said.
The representative was referring to the free trade message, especially by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and other world leaders who had gathered for the Jun. 28–29 G20 Summit in the Japanese city of Osaka.
On July 1, Tokyo announced restrictions on basic chemical products -- fluorinated polyamide, photoresists and hydrogen fluoride –acquired by South Korean companies to manufacture screens and memory chips, which are vital components for computers, servers and smartphones.
The measure could hinder the production of DRAM – a critical memory chip used in personal computers, workstations and servers. South Korea produces 70 percent of such chips used globally while manufacturing of semiconductors makes up 25 percent of the country's exports.
Tokyo claims the restrictions were imposed because it suspects that some of these materials might end up in the hands of North Korea.
South Korea has, however, dismissed the allegations and the officials told reporters that "such claims are simply groundless".
They said the government believed that the measure sought to show Japan's discontent with the South Korean top court's 2018 ruling that ordered Japanese companies present in South Korea to pay compensation to Korean citizens (or their heirs) enslaved by them during World War II.
Japan, which colonized the Korean Peninsula between 1910 and 1945, claims that all compensation issues for the victims enslaved by Japanese companies were addressed in a 1965 treaty.
In accordance with the treaty, Tokyo donated $300 million to the neighboring country, which, however, did not reach the intended victims under the military dictatorship of Park Chung-hee, resulting in thousands of them suing the South Korean government this year.
The government representatives said that the situation "should be solved by dialogue”, and added that Seoul was "open to all suggestions", including a hypothetical arbitration proceeding around the 1965 agreement.
Although, they said, Seoul believed that it was not "the only way to go”, to resolve the issue.
On Wednesday, Tokyo again insisted on the need of arbitration, an option that it had proposed since the past few months and on which Seoul has not commented officially. EFE-EPA