SEOUL – South Korea’s trade ministry confirmed Friday that Japan had approved a shipment of hydrogen fluoride for the first time since Tokyo designated it last month as one of three materials subject to tighter controls when shipped to South Korea.
Japanese-made hydrogen fluoride, along with fluorinated polyimide and photoresist, are used by leading Korean companies, such as Samsung Electronics Co., to manufacture semiconductors and display panels.
South Korean media say the recipient of the shipment is Samsung. Samsung applied for it on around July 4, the same day Japan, citing issues with South Korea’s export controls and regulation, toughened its export rules for the three materials.
The July 4 measure has not stopped the shipments of all three materials entirely. Japan has approved the export of photoresist twice and its first batch was shipped to South Korea on Aug. 21, according to the Yonhap News Agency.
An official at South Korea’s Trade, Industry and Energy Ministry said Friday that the ministry confirmed the first approval of a hydrogen fluoride export through a related industry, while expressing concerns over continuing uncertainties surrounding trade relations with Japan.
In addition to toughening the export controls for South Korea in July, Japan on Wednesday removed it from a list of countries that enjoy minimum trade restrictions on goods such as electronic components that could be diverted for military use.
“Our stance has always been to normalize the whole situation,” the ministry official said.
Relations between Tokyo and Seoul have sunk to their lowest point in years following a series of South Korean court decisions ordering compensation for forced labor during Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945.
The South Korean government has viewed Japan’s tougher export controls on the country as retaliation against issues stemming from the rulings.