Japan voters back stricter checks on tech exports to South Korea

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reiterated denials that checks on exports to South Korea were retaliation for recent court rulings against Japanese firms.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reiterated denials that checks on exports to South Korea were retaliation for recent court rulings against Japanese firms.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

TOKYO (BLOOMBERG) - Most Japanese approve of the government's decision to tighten controls on exports to South Korea of specialist materials vital to its tech industry, a poll showed on Monday (July 8), as a long-running dispute over colonial history threatens to damage business ties between the neighbours.

Some 58 per cent of respondents to the poll carried out by the Japan News Network, or JNN, said they approved of the government's policy, compared with 24 per cent who did not.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Sunday reiterated denials that the checks were a form of retaliation against South Korea for recent court rulings holding Japanese companies liable for cases of forced labour before and during World War II. Japanese officials have said the judgments damaged trust between the US allies and risked undermining the 1965 treaty that forms the basis of their relations.

While the stricter checks on three specialist materials - which took effect last Thursday - don't amount to a ban, exporters would be required to obtain a separate licence each time they want to sell the materials to South Korea, causing delays. Japan is also considering removing South Korea from a list of trusted export markets, a move that could affect a broader swathe of products.

South Korea's government and top electronics firms scrambled to tackle the situation. Samsung Electronics vice-chairman Jay Y. Lee travelled to Japan on Sunday to discuss the tighter controls with local business leaders, Yonhap News reported.

Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki held discussions on the "external economic situation" with the heads of top domestic companies over the weekend, President Moon Jae-in's office said in a statement. Mr Moon, who has not responded publicly to the measures, is set to meet industry leaders on Wednesday, according to Yonhap.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government will provide emergency funds to domestic companies affected by Japan's export restrictions on South Korea's crucial tech industry, Yonhap reported, citing Mr Cho In-dong, an economic policy officer at the city's office.