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Korea reinstates Japan on fast-track trade 'white list'

Japan's decision on putting Korea back on its preferred trade partner list expected to take another two months

By Park Han-na

Published : April 24, 2023 - 15:55

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South Korea reinstated Japan to its “white list” of trusted trading partners in more than three years in a push to revive economic cooperation between the two countries, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said Monday.

The ministry released a notification on Japan’s restored status in an amendment of the export and import notification of strategic materials.

With the change, Japan will be included the list of 28 other countries who are granted simplified procedures for purchasing sensitive goods that can be diverted for military use.

The preferential treatment in export approval procedures by Korean authorities will include cutting the review period from 15 days to five days. Application documents will be also reduced from the existing five types to three.

The move came after Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol’s official visit to Tokyo for a summit with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in March, where the two pledged to improve frayed bilateral relations.

After the summit, Japan lifted restrictions on exports of key semiconductor materials to Korea, including fluorine polyimide, photoresist and hydrogen fluoride. Korea in turn withdrew its complaint filed with the World Trade Organization against the export curbs.

Japan is also expected to reinstate Korea to its list of preferred countries for export screening of strategic materials soon. As a follow-up to the summit, Korea and Japan have been continuing director general-level dialogue to discuss this issue, according to the ministry.

"We are discussing the white list restoration issue in the export management policy dialogue with Japan, and follow-up measures will be taken based on the results of the discussion." do," a ministry official said.

However, it is expected that it will take more time for the final decision to be made in Japan than in Korea due to differences in procedures, such as the need to decide on the matter at a Cabinet meeting.

Considering that this process usually takes about two months, Japan's white list revision is likely to happen after the first half of this year.

In September 2019, the Korean government removed Japan from its white list amid a growing diplomatic and trade spat between the two countries.

Relations between the two nations deteriorated after a ruling by Korea’s Supreme Court in 2018 that Japanese companies should compensate Korean victims who were conscripted as forced laborers during World War II.

Meanwhile, the government announced that it would strengthen export control of strategic materials to Russia and Belarus from Friday.

A total of 741 items will be subject to the export curbs including semiconductors, automobiles and construction machinery.

The government said that the decision was made to cooperate with the international community on export controls that have been ongoing since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine.

In addition, exports of quantum computers and related parts; finished cars costing more than $50,000; machine tools; and oil and gas purification equipment such as bearings and heat exchangers to Russia and Belarus will be prohibited.

The government plans to strengthen crackdowns and enforcement to prevent "situational permission" items from entering Russia or Belarus by bypassing third countries. According to Korean law, situational permission applies to "any person who intends to export any goods or technologies that do not fall within the category of any strategic items but have a high potential of being appropriated for manufacturing, developing, using, or storing weapons of mass destruction or missiles as carriers of such weapons."

“In fact, there was a situation in which detour exports through third countries were suspected," a ministry official said.