The government on Thursday tried to mollify global anxiety over perceived punitive trade moves against South Korea by approving exports of a key chemical to its neighbor for the first time since export controls on three chemicals were tightened last month.

Trade minister Hiroshige Seko rejected criticism of the recent decision to scrub South Korea from its so-called whitelist of countries cleared for preferential export screenings. The decision followed moves to impose tighter scrutiny on materials shipped there. He called the complaints "unjust."

"Usually we don't make an announcement when any single export is approved," Seko told reporters. "But in extraordinary circumstances, in which the South Korean government unjustly called our measures an export ban, we decided to make an announcement."