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Despite worries, chip firms preparing to share key trade info with US

This file photo shows the company's chip manufacturing plant in Icheon, 80 kilometers southeast of Seoul. (SK hynix Inc.)
This file photo shows the company's chip manufacturing plant in Icheon, 80 kilometers southeast of Seoul. (SK hynix Inc.)
South Korean technology conglomerates are making last-minute preparations ahead of submitting their semiconductor-related data to the US as the deadline approaches, industry insiders said Wednesday.

The move is in line with the US Department of Commerce’s request on Sep. 24 for global semiconductor firms to hand over internal data on clients, inventory levels and chipmaking equipment by Nov. 8, so the department can “review” supply-side issues. Shortages of key parts, including chips, have caused disruptions in the US automobile industry. 

The US government has stressed that the info-sharing is voluntary, but Korean chipmakers appear to have felt obliged to comply. 

In Seoul, there have been mounting concerns that the provision of such data could undermine South Korean tech firms’ competitiveness and bargaining power globally. Some even said it could possibly help its rivals in the US, such as Intel. 

Despite the initial worries, Samsung Electronics, the world’s largest memory chip producer and No. 2 foundry firm, has been preparing to answer the US survey that consists of 26 questions. But classified information such as details on client lists are likely to be excluded through negotiation between the two governments, industry sources said.

Kim Ki-nam, Samsung Electronics’ vice chairman, told reporters on Oct. 26 that the company has been “calmly responding” to the US’ urge to submit sensitive data. 

Last month, the US Commerce Department once again pushed firms to hand over the information, saying other global companies like Intel, General Motors and Infineon have agreed to cooperate. 

While market experts said the US request is not directly targeted at Korean firms, there have been concerns voiced over a US intervention in chip shortages. 

Meanwhile, the South Korean government said once the tech firms submit their data to the US, it will actively seek dialogue with the US Commerce Department regarding cooperation over chip shortages. 

Trade Minister Moon Sung-wook will visit the US within this month to meet with Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.

(ddd@heraldcorp.com)

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