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KITA to bolster monitoring on key materials

KITA Chairman Koo Ja-yeol speaks at a press conference in Seoul on Monday. (KITA)
KITA Chairman Koo Ja-yeol speaks at a press conference in Seoul on Monday. (KITA)
The Korea International Trade Association said Monday that it will bolster the monitoring of supply chains for key materials in close cooperation with government agencies and the trading units of conglomerates, amid the protracted urea solution supply crunch.

According to a recent study by the trade lobby, South Korea is heavily dependent on single countries for its supplies of 3,911 materials, with China making up almost half the total.

Over the past 10 months, Korea relied on imports from China for 95.2 percent of its urea solution, a fluid used in diesel cars to cut emissions. The supply was hit hard after China tightened exports of the material amid a trade conflict with Australia.

“We will continue monitoring the supply chain of key materials in partnership with our members like Samsung C&T and LX International, which have global networks and sourcing know-how,” a KITA official told reporters.

He hinted that the launch of a government-industry task force was imminent, saying the main issue was how to identify which “strategic materials” to prioritize.

“Considering materials for futuristic technologies are usually considered strategic materials, it remains to be seen whether urea solution could be categorized as a strategic material,” he added.

Of the items for which Korea is highly dependent on China, the KITA study pinpointed magnesium ingots for automotive aluminum and tungsten oxide for chips and batteries as two for which heightened surveillance is necessary due to their industrial impact. 

In the meantime, KITA said, the nation’s exports are poised to hit a record high this year and continue that momentum next year.

This year, exports soared to an all-time high of 757 trillion won ($636.2 billion), a 24.1 percent jump from a year ago, while imports surged 29.4 percent to 720 trillion won.

The trade lobby also offered a rosy outlook for next year, projecting that both exports and imports would increase -- exports 2.1 percent from this year and imports 1.6 percent.

Chips, which make up almost 20 percent of the nation’s total exports, drove up the volume overall, while other key items such as chemicals, textiles, displays and wireless devices performed well.

Despite a recent fall in chip prices, KITA predicted that global demand for chips would remain solid in the coming months, gaining a big boost from the upcoming server replacement cycle and the arrival of next-generation DDR5 memory chips.

By Lee Ji-yoon (