SEOUL, June 18 (Yonhap) — South Korea has requested the World Trade Organization (WTO) to open a dispute-settlement panel to deal with Japan’s export curbs against its Asian neighbor, which have been in effect since July, the trade ministry here said Thursday.
The move came around two weeks after Seoul, disappointed by lack of progress in the feud, said it would reopen its complaint against Tokyo’s export restrictions at the WTO.
Last year, Seoul had dropped its WTO complaint against Tokyo’s export restrictions in a goodwill gesture to seek a breakthrough in the trade row that started with the latter’s abrupt ban on shipping key materials to its neighbor in July 2019.
The industrial materials — photoresist, etching gas and fluorinated polyimide — are critical for the chip and display industries, the two industrial backbones of Asia’s No. 4 economy.
South Korea believes Japan’s export curbs are merely retaliation against a Seoul court’s ruling that ordered Japanese firms to compensate victims of forced labor during Japan’s 1910-45 colonial rule of the peninsula.
Despite South Korea’s repeated calls to resolve the issue, Japan has been slow in lifting the curbs.
Japan removed South Korea from its list of trusted partners last year, prompting Seoul to take a tit-for-tat measure.
Seoul in May renewed its call for Tokyo to lift export regulations against its neighbor by the end of that month, calling for Japan to make joint efforts to overcome the economic fallout from the new coronavirus pandemic.
South Korea earlier said the process at the WTO is aimed at staving off the uncertainties over the global supply chain for companies of both nations and “proving the unlawfulness and unjustness” of Japan’s actions.
The trade row has been causing more damage to Tokyo’s exports than the other way around. South Korea’s exports to Japan slipped 6.9 percent to US$28 billion in 2019 from a year earlier. Its imports from Japan fell at a wider margin of 12.9 percent to $47 billion.