SEOUL – The South Korean government has asked the World Trade Organization to set up a dispute-settlement panel over Japan’s allegedly unjustified tightening of export controls on semiconductor materials, the government said Thursday.
The formal request to appoint a panel of experts to consider the case was sent to the WTO Secretariat in Geneva and to the Japanese side on the same date.
On June 2, South Korea’s Trade, Industry and Energy Ministry said it was resurrecting the complaint because Japan had not shown willingness to settle the dispute bilaterally despite months of talks.
In July last year, Japan tightened controls on South Korea-bound exports of three key materials used to manufacture semiconductors and display panels.
The following month, Japan removed the country from a whitelist of countries given preferential trading status, citing concerns over Seoul’s lax rules on exporting sensitive goods.
South Korea filed the WTO complaint in September, arguing the measures were a form of political retaliation, but suspended it in November after the countries agreed to start consultations on export controls.
Seoul has recently accused Japan of not holding up its end of the deal by easing its export controls despite the South Korean side having addressed Tokyo’s concerns.
Ties between the Asian neighbors have been on particularly rocky ground since South Korea’s top court made a series of decisions ordering compensation for people ruled to have been forced to work in Japanese factories during the 1910-1945 period of Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.
Japan argues the issue of compensation was settled for good by a 1965 bilateral agreement and has criticized the seizure of Japanese companies’ assets in South Korea.