South Korea has retaliated against Japanese trade measures by removing the country from its white list of automatically approved export partners.
The move is presumably in retaliation against Japan, which took South Korea off its similar list of approved destinations for strategic materials 10 days ago. This comes despite a public gesture, late last week, from Japanese industry minister Hiroshige Seko, showing that Japan was willing to wave exports across. He told reporters last week that the South Korean government calling its export measures a "ban" was unjust.
Neither action is in effect yet and the South Korean industrial minister urged Japan to restart talks before 28 August, when the previously "fast-tracked" items will be put on the slow train. Just 27 countries – including Australia, the UK and the US and, until a few weeks' time, Korea – are on Japan's Group A "white list" and are thus free to easily import goods that have both civilian and military applications.
The deepening row between the two could threaten other parts of the global technology supply network with its dependence on a multiplicity of suppliers for even quite simple devices. Back in July, Japan stopped batch licences for South Korean firms exporting semiconductors – instead requiring individual licences which can take as long as 15 days to approve.
South Korea relies on Japanese components and materials for making OLED screens and supplies for producing chips and mobile devices.
The trade row between the two never overly friendly nations has worsened since late last year, when a South Korean court demanded reparations from Japanese firms for forced labour during the Second World War. Japan insists all reparations claims were settled when the two re-established diplomatic relations in the mid-1960s.
South Korea has accused Japan of using trade to oppose an independent decision made by Korea's judiciary. It is threatening to make a complaint to the World Trade Organization about Japan's actions. ®