Japan Weighs Lifting of Strict Controls on Exports to South Korea

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Prime Minister’s Office in Tokyo

The government will likely lift its strict export controls on semiconductor materials and other items to South Korea if Seoul withdraws a complaint lodged with the World Trade Organization against Japan, government sources said.

Tokyo is considering lifting the ban with an eye toward the possible settlement of the issue of lawsuits regarding former wartime requisitioned workers from the Korean Peninsula.

In July 2019, the Japanese government tightened its controls on exports to South Korea of three semiconductor-related items. In August the same year, Japan removed South Korea from its list of nations with “white country” status: countries given preferential treatment through simplified export procedures.

At the time, Tokyo said the decision was based solely on security concerns, but some viewed the move as a “retaliatory measure” against Seoul.

The Japanese government reportedly believes the time will be ripe to lift the ban following South Korea’s anticipated announcement of an acceptable solution to the requisitioned workers issue.

The WTO dispute, meanwhile, has dragged on since South Korea filed its complaint in September 2019. Japan has requested that the complaint be withdrawn before it lifts its export ban.

Seoul is believed to be receptive to the idea of withdrawing the complaint if Japan lifts its export ban around the same time, according to the sources.