The Korea Herald


Korea aligned with US export curbs on chips to China: minister

By Jo He-rim

Published : April 11, 2024 - 14:44

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Minister of Trade, Industry and Energy Ahn Duk-geun (Trade Ministry) Minister of Trade, Industry and Energy Ahn Duk-geun (Trade Ministry)

South Korea is largely aligned with the US government’s export curbs on chips to China, but it is also making efforts to maintain trade ties with Beijing, Korea’s trade minister said in the US on Wednesday.

Minister of Trade, Industry and Energy Ahn Duk-geun, who is visiting the US for the first time after he was inaugurated in January this year, added that the government is working to ensure the US trade curbs do not hurt the interests of Korean chipmakers.

"Our basic stance is to closely cooperate with our allies," Ahn told reporters at Dulles International Airport near Washington, asked about Seoul’s position on Washington’s request for Korea to join its efforts to restrict China's ability to obtain advanced chips.

“We are negotiating on many things. There are some agendas where we agree on and some that we disagree on,” Ahn said.

At the same time, the government is also working on stabilizing ties with China in terms of trade and industrial coordination, the minister explained.

"We are also making efforts to make sure our ties with China are stable in terms of trade and industrial relations."

After imposing a series of export control measures on chipmaking tools in October 2022, the US has been urging allies to join its efforts to tighten curbs against China. Upon the request, the Netherlands implemented measures to restrict the export of some semiconductor equipment, while Japan is expected to introduce new subsidy rules for strategic goods such as semiconductors in the coming months to reduce reliance on China.

Ahn said the Korean government is also working with the US to ensure that the export curbs do not become "excessive" and disrupt the operations of Korean chipmakers, including Samsung Electronics and SK hynix, which have chip manufacturing facilities in China.

The trade minister said he received assurance from the US government that Korean chipmakers would not be left out of benefits in the US chip subsidy program.

"The amount of subsidies and other details will be announced next week," Ahn added.

Samsung, the world's top memory chip maker, is reportedly doubling down on its investment of some $44 billion for the construction of its chip fabrication plant in Taylor, Texas, and is expected to receive around $6 billion to $7 billion in grants from the US Commerce Department.

SK hynix, the second-largest memory chip maker in the world, is also spending $3.87 billion to build an advanced chip packaging facility in West Lafayette, Indiana, and has reportedly applied for a federal subsidy.

Ahn is staying in Washington until Friday to meet with US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo and Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm for discussions on ways to strengthen bilateral cooperation between Korea and the US.

Other pending issues, including the US CHIPS and Science Act and Inflation Reduction Act, which affect Korean firms, will be on the table, according to the Korean Trade Ministry.