South Korean chipmakers may be spared the worst damage from Tokyo’s new trade restrictions on Seoul with Japanese officials saying the country plans to still grant export licences for all “bona fide” civil semiconductor exports.
According to officials briefed on Japan’s recent trade measures, the government plans to follow the letter of the Wassenaar Arrangement on arms export controls, which says restrictions cannot be used to target a particular state or to impede civil transactions.
That suggests South Korean chipmakers Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix will continue to receive supplies of fluorinated polyamide, photoresists and hydrogen fluoride etching gas.
All are vital chemicals for which Japanese suppliers have a dominant market share. Last week, Tokyo imposed tougher restrictions on exporting them to South Korea. Tokyo is leaning heavily on the argument that its measures are a legitimate reimposition of arms control for goods with dual civil and military uses.