Trade war journal: Japan resumes high-tech chemical exports with South Korea
Back in early July, the diplomatic conflict between Japan and South Korea concerning unpaid Japanese World War II dues towards Korea was foreshadowing yet another trade war that could lead to more disruption on the high-tech markets. As the diplomatic tension escalated, Japan imposed individual exports approval for all of its chemical compound producers, which effectively put on hold all shipments scheduled for South Korean companies such as Samsung, LG and SK Hynix.
Even though the diplomatic aspects have not yet been smoothed out, Japan clearly understands the consequences of its measures and recently agreed to approve a new chemical compound shipment for South Korea. The chemicals in question include polyimides used for LCD and OLED displays, photoresists used for CPUs / SoCs / GPUs, plus high-purity hydrogen fluoride used for DRAM / NAND memory chips, and Japan is the only country producing all these compounds in large enough quantities.
Apparently, some of the chemical compounds can also be used for military purposes, and this should explain why Japan tightened the export policies. The new shipment does not appear to pose any threat to national security and it will be sent out in about 4 weeks. Japanese trade minister Hiroshige Seko also clarified the new export policy situation: “Usually we don’t make an announcement when any single export is approved. But in extraordinary circumstances, in which the South Korean government unjustly called our measures an export ban, we decided to make an announcement.”
According to South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon, the first shipment will contain mostly EUV photoresists. The next shipments may contain the other needed compounds, yet these may only get approved after 4-5 weeks, as per the new tightened Japanese export policies.
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