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S. Korea urges Japan to lift export restrictions

South Korea's finance minister on Monday pressed Japan to withdraw its export restrictions on key semiconductor materials as the Japanese move could have a negative impact on the global economy.

Hong Nam-ki, the minister of economy and finance, said Japan's export restrictions run counter to the principles of the World Trade Organization.


Hong Nam-ki (Yonhap)
Hong Nam-ki (Yonhap)

The comments came days after Japan began to tighten regulations on exports to South Korea of high-tech materials essential for the production of semiconductors and display panels -- namely fluorinated polyimide, photoresist and etching gas.

Fluorinated polyimides are used to make flexible organic light-emitting diode displays, and photoresist is a thin layer used to transfer a circuit pattern to a semiconductor substrate. Etching gas is needed in the semiconductor fabrication process.

Hong said the South Korean government will try to minimize the potential damage to local companies by closely coordinating with local industry and the international community.

President Moon Jae-in is set to meet with leaders of major conglomerates on Wednesday over Japan's export restrictions.

The latest dispute stems from last year's ruling by the South Korean Supreme Court that ordered Japanese firms to compensate South Korean victims of forced labor during Japan's 1910-45 colonization of the Korean Peninsula.

But Japan has lashed out at the ruling, claiming that all reparation issues stemming from its colonial rule were settled under a 1965 government-to-government accord that normalized bilateral relations.

South Korea and Japan are close economic partners and key allies of the United States, though they have long been in conflict over territory and other historical disputes.

Separately, Hong said the government will make efforts to help local construction companies win overseas infrastructure projects.

Hong also expressed South Korea's hope of forging a separate bilateral free trade deal with Malaysia and Indonesia this year as part of efforts to boost exports.

South Korea has sought stronger economic ties with Southeast Asian countries to reduce its heavy reliance on large markets like the United States and China and to foster new growth drivers.

South Korea has clinched a series of free trade agreements with major trading partners, including the US and China, as well as Chile, Peru and Colombia, in recent years as part of its efforts to boost growth in the country's export-driven economy. (Yonhap)

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