Skip to main content

South Korea's senior trade official Yoo Myung-hee speaks during a briefing at a government complex in downtown Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019. South Korea is filing a complaint with the World Trade Organization over Japan's tightened export controls on key materials South Korean companies use to make computer chips and displays, accusing Tokyo of weaponizing trade to retaliate over political rows. (Kim Seung-doo/Yonhap via AP)

The Canadian Press

South Korea said it will initiate a complaint Wednesday to the World Trade Organization over Japan’s tightened export controls on key materials South Korean companies use to make computer chips and displays

Seoul accused Tokyo of weaponizing trade to retaliate over political rows. It will formally request bilateral consultations with Japan on Wednesday as the first step in the WTO dispute settlement process, said Yoo Myung-hee, a senior official at South Korea’s Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.

Japan in July imposed tighter export controls on three chemicals South Korean companies use to produce semiconductors and displays for smartphones and TVs, citing unspecified security concerns over South Korea’s export controls on sensitive materials that could be used for military purposes.

Story continues below advertisement

The measures, which weeks later were followed by Japan’s move to exclude South Korea from its “white list” of countries with fast-track trade status, triggered a full-blown diplomatic row that saw relations sink to a low unseen in decades

South Korea says Japan’s trade measures threaten its export-dependent economy, where many manufacturers rely on materials and parts imported from Japan. It claims Tokyo is retaliating over South Korean court rulings that called for Japanese companies to offer reparations to aging South Korean plaintiffs over World War II forced labour.

“Japan’s export restriction on the three materials were based on political motivation related to rulings by our Supreme Court on forced labour … It was a discriminatory measure that directly targets only our country,” Yoo said in a news conference.

Hiroshige Seko, Japan’s minister of economy, trade and industry, told reporters in Tokyo he thought hardly any WTO member countries were sympathetic to South Korea’s position. “Regardless, it is clear that our action is consistent with the WTO,” he said. Seko added that Tokyo would study the demands and respond according to the proper WTO procedures.

If Japan accepts South Korea’s request, the countries must hold consultations for a minimum 60 days. If Japan refuses the consultations or if the talks fail, South Korea could request a WTO panel ruling on the dispute. The process usually takes about 15 months but may also last years, said Jeong Hae-seong, a South Korean trade ministry official.

Yoo said the country is also considering whether to pursue WTO action over Japan’s move to delist South Korea as a preferential trade partner.

Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter