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S. Korea’s Trade Ministry refutes Japan by revealing catch-all system

The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy on Wednesday released details of its “catch-all system” for the country’s trade controls for security, refuting one by one Japan’s claims that South Korea’s system is insufficient.

The ministry reiterated that Korea has been controlling exports of both strategic and nonstrategic items under stricter conditions than Japan.

Japan has raised as a reason for its export restrictions of key materials for South Korea’s tech firms its suspicion that Seoul may have been negligent in managing some dual-use items affected by the United Nations resolutions against North Korea.

Contrary to Japan’s assertion, the ministry said the country’s catch-all system in which exports of both strategic and nonstrategic items that could be used as part of weapons of mass destruction are placed under the government’s control, while Japan applies looser rules.


Simply put, South Korean exporters are obligated to determine the end use and user of their exports and report such information to the government.

Korea joined the Multilateral Export Control Regime in 2001, and introduced the catch-all system in 2003 in order to prevent some of nonstrategic materials from being used for WMD or terrorism.

By making a comparison between the systems of the two countries, it is clear that Korea applies stricter rules, the ministry said.

South Korea applies two of the three rules to whitelisted countries, and all three to nonwhitelisted counties. The three rules are to “know,” “inform” and “suspect.” Under the system, the government scrutinizes suspect-rated export items that could potentially be converted for use in WMDs.

Meanwhile, Japan exempts whitelisted countries from the three rules. And it applies know and inform rules to nonwhitelisted countries, according to the Korean ministry. 

Japan’s catch-all scheme does not take control of conventional weapons at all, the ministry said.

“Japanese officials at the working-level negotiation said that conventional weapons are not subject to the Korean catch-all system,” said Jeon Chan-soo, director of trade security at the ministry. “But we explained that Korea takes control of conventional weapons by separate law.” 

Korea also has tight controls on exports of 21 items to three countries, including Iran, Syria and Pakistan, while Japan only controls those to Syria, according to the ministry.

And exports of 190 items to North Korea are in check by the Korean government, while Japan controls 34 kinds of conventional weapons and 40 WMD items heading to North Korea.

“Korea is running the control system that has benchmarked the European Union scheme,” said a government official. “The Korean system is more intuitive and easier for controlling each case.”

By Song Su-hyun  (