SEOUL (THE KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - South Korea is moving to strip Japan from its list of trusted trading partners as early as this week, but it is still open to having last-minute negotiations with Tokyo, the trade ministry said on Sunday (Sept 15).
Seoul’s trade ministry has completed nearly all procedures for the removal of Japan from its list of nations given favoured export procedures for “operating an export control system that violates international norms”, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.
The move comes after Japan removed South Korea from its own whitelist of nations given preferential export treatment, on Aug 28.
South Korea plans to classify its trading partners into three groups from the current two, placing Tokyo in the in-between group.
Once implemented, local companies shipping strategic goods to Japan will have to hand in five different documents to win individual approval, which is two more than the current three.
The approval process will also take around 15 days, which will be significantly longer than the current five.
South Korea, however, is also still willing to talk with Japan anytime even after the new policy is implemented, according to the ministry.
In a separate action, South Korea filed a complaint with the World Trade Organisation last Wednesday over Japan’s curbs of exporting key industrial materials to Seoul. The complaint, however, will not cover Japan’s removal of South Korea from trusted trading partners.
The latest step came as Japan’s export restrictions targeting only South Korea is seen as a discriminatory, politically motivated act. Tokyo’s move is widely seen as a retaliation against a verdict by a Seoul court last year that ordered Japanese firms to compensate Korean victims for their wartime forced labour.
Relations between Seoul and Tokyo have sunk to their lowest point in decades following a series of disputes, mostly rooted in unresolved rancor over Japan's 1910-45 colonisation of the Korean Peninsula.