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Japan’s export curbs to affect imports of carbon fiber, botulinum toxins

With Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet removing South Korea from its list of trusted export destinations last week, attention has been drawn to what materials will become subject to import restrictions.

According to the Korea Strategic Institute, which oversees management of strategic goods for the Korean government, 159 materials were selected as items of concern to be subject to the Japanese restrictions for security reasons.

Among those materials that Japan claimed could be smuggled into North Korea for military purposes are carbon dioxide. While the material is essential for chipmaking and car manufacturing, it is also used as a key component for a missile fuselage.

Some chemical materials used for cosmetics were included in the South Korean agency’s watch list. Botulinum toxin, for instance, can be developed into a lethal biological weapon.


While disputing the Japanese claim that those “dual-use” materials could make their way into North Korea despite international sanctions, the government has urged local businesses to minimize economic fallout by trading with “less strict” companies in Japan.

Under the Japanese government’s Internal Compliance Program, some Japanese firms are allowed to exercise autonomy over strategic goods management. The Korean government suggested they could be exempt from the Abe Cabinet’s strict export curbs.

“As long as (Korean companies) trade with the Japanese companies subject to the Compliance Program, they can continue their business as usual,” said the institute. “While leveraging the system, we should come up with our own measures.”

Under the Japanese export restrictions on chemicals used in the production of advanced semiconductors and digital flat screens, Japanese firms selling those products to South Korea will be required to obtain approval for each export contract, a process that could take up to 90 days.