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Kishida confirms Japan working to put S. Korea back on export ‘white list’

South Korea, Japan agree to cooperate on bolstering chip, materials, parts and equipment industries

By Jo He-rim

Published : May 7, 2023 - 19:58

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South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol (right) and his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida speak at a press conference after their summit in Seoul on Sunday. (Yonhap) South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol (right) and his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida speak at a press conference after their summit in Seoul on Sunday. (Yonhap)

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida confirmed Japan is in the process of reinstating South Korea to its “white list” of trusted trading partners amid joint efforts to improve bilateral economic ties, the leaders said Sunday.

In a joint press conference following their summit in Seoul, the two leaders also said they agreed to bolster cooperation in industries including semiconductors, materials, parts and equipment.

“Government talks over export control actively took place (between the two countries) and as a result, the Japanese government is in the process of putting South Korea back in Group A,” Kishida said during the press conference.

Japan’s move to redesignate South Korea as a Group A, or "white list," would give South Korea the preferential export treatment it had enjoyed before 2019.

Tokyo downgraded Seoul to Group B in 2019 after imposing export controls on three key semiconductor materials to Korea -- fluorine polyimide, photoresist and hydrogen fluoride -- in an apparent retaliation against South Korean Court rulings in the previous year. Seoul’s top court ordered two Japanese companies to pay compensation to Korean victims of forced labor during Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.

In turn, Seoul had also removed Tokyo from its white list, but put the country back on the list in April this year, after Yoon traveled to Tokyo for a summit with Kishida.

There, the two agreed to make full-fledged efforts to improve the frayed ties. South Korea also announced plans to compensate the victims without asking Japan for contributions.

Following the summit in March, Japan lifted the export restrictions, and Korea also withdrew its complaint filed with the World Trade Organization against the export curbs.

On Sunday, the two leaders also agreed to bolster cooperation in key industries such as semiconductors, materials, parts and equipment.

“On economic cooperation, I and Kishida agreed that South Korea’s semiconductor manufacturers and Japan’s excellent material, parts and equipment suppliers should work together to build a firm chip supply chain,” Yoon said during the press conference.

“During our summit, we also discussed ways to encourage joint research and R&D cooperation in advanced technology sectors, including space, quantum (technology), artificial intelligence, biopharmaceutical and materials.”

Noting the increasing number of personnel exchanges, Yoon also said the two sides would work together to revive the number of flights to the prepandemic level, and also revive flights in regions other than Seoul and Tokyo

The two leaders also welcomed the resumption of government dialogues, including the economic and security dialogue between the National Security Councils, and finance ministers’ meetings.