South Korean senior trade official Yoo Myung-hee speaks during a briefing at a government complex in Seoul on Wednesday. Photo: Kim Seung-doo/Yonhap via AP
politics

South Korea initiating WTO complaint over Japan trade curbs

42 Comments
By KIM TONG-HYUNG

South Korea said Wednesday it will initiate a complaint to the World Trade Organization over Japan's tightened export controls on key materials South Korean companies use to make computer chips and displays.

South Korea, which has accused Tokyo of weaponizing trade to retaliate over political disputes, will formally request bilateral consultations with Japan on Wednesday as the first step in the WTO dispute settlement process, said Yoo Myung-hee, a senior official at South Korea's Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.

She said the country is also considering whether to pursue WTO action over Japan's move to delist South Korea as a preferential trade partner.

Japan in July imposed tighter export controls on three chemicals South Korean companies use to produce semiconductors and displays for smartphones and TVs, citing unspecified security concerns over South Korea's export controls on sensitive materials that could be used for military purposes.

The measures, which weeks later were followed by Japan's move to exclude South Korea from its "white list" of countries with fast-track trade status, triggered a full-blown diplomatic row that saw relations sink to a low unseen in decades.

South Korea says Japan's trade measures threaten its export-dependent economy, where many manufacturers rely on materials and parts imported from Japan. It claims Tokyo is retaliating over South Korean court rulings that called for Japanese companies to offer reparations to aging South Korean plaintiffs over World War II forced labor.

Japan insists that all compensation matters were settled when the two countries normalized relations under a 1965 treaty and that the South Korean court rulings go against international law.

"Japan's export restriction on the three materials were based on political motivation related to rulings by our Supreme Court on forced labor," Yoo said at a news conference. "It was a discriminatory measure that directly targets only our country."

Hiroshige Seko, Japan's minister of economy, trade and industry, told reporters in Tokyo he thought hardly any WTO member countries were sympathetic to South Korea's position.

"Regardless, it is clear that our action is consistent with the WTO," he said.

Seko added that Tokyo would study the demands and respond according to the proper WTO procedures.

If Japan accepts South Korea's request, the countries must hold consultations for a minimum 60 days. If Japan refuses the consultations or if the talks fail, South Korea could request a WTO panel ruling on the dispute. The process usually takes about 15 months but may also last years, said Jeong Hae-seong, a South Korean trade ministry official.

The measures Tokyo introduced in July require Japanese companies to receive case-by-case inspections and approval on the shipments of the three materials to South Korea, which takes up to 90 days, compared to the previous fast-track process that took one or two weeks, South Korean officials said. Yoo said Japan approved the shipments of the materials only three times since the measures took effect on July 4.

Seoul has vowed countermeasures and announced plans to similarly downgrade Japan's trade status and terminate a bilateral military intelligence-sharing pact with Japan that symbolized the countries' three-way security cooperation with the United States in face of North Korea's nuclear threat and China's growing influence.

Following an angry reaction from Washington, Seoul later said it could reconsider its decision to end the military agreement, which remains in effect until November, if Japan relists South Korea as a favored trade partner.

© Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

42 Comments

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Good. The WTO is where this should be addressed, not in the streets of Seoul and Tokyo..

1 ( +16 / -15 )

Good on them for trying to bring in third party. Hopefully both are publicly humiliated by it for causing this circus.

-19 ( +8 / -27 )

Korea cementing its irrelevancy in the world... you can not beat Japan but nice try....

19 ( +31 / -12 )

Japan in July imposed tighter export controls on three chemicals South Korean companies use to produce semiconductors and displays for smartphones and TVs, citing unspecified security concerns over South Korea's export controls on sensitive materials that could be used for military purposes.

'Unspecified' security concerns huh? How typical, once again no mentions of the 156 cases of export violations that the South Koreans themselves admitted to.

Pathetic.

Go Japan.

21 ( +32 / -11 )

I do not understand what South Korea expect from their persistant anti-Japan attitude? They will benefit by promoting friendly relationship with Japan. They may be thinking their trade with China more important and unification with North Korea primary importance and do not need U.S. Forces in their country anymore.

18 ( +27 / -9 )

Dear S.Korea, isn’t a boycott also a trade curb?

Pray tell, how are you going to justify the government sponsored boycott towards Japanese goods?

How about seizing patents and assets belonging to foreign companies with total disregard of treaties?

Why can’t you control the final destinations, as agreed upon in treaties, of very sensitive products that could be use to make weapons by your Northern brethren?

21 ( +32 / -11 )

Korea. The country that doesn't want its cake but wants to eat it too.

Hopefully both sides calm down soon and recognize their self destructive behaviours.

-10 ( +5 / -15 )

Seoul has vowed countermeasures and announced plans to similarly downgrade Japan's trade status and terminate a bilateral military intelligence-sharing pact with Japan that symbolized the countries' three-way security cooperation with the United States in face of North Korea's nuclear threat and China's growing influence.

Isn’t this what you’re accusing Japan of doing though, weaponizing trade to retaliate?

24 ( +27 / -3 )

Japan removed SK out of the (group A) whitelist because of its own export management regarding security. SK retaliated to remove Japan out of the its called whiltelist as Japan did it. Wonder SK can win the case to WTO?

24 ( +28 / -4 )

South Korea just got turned down by the WTO again regarding the valves issue from before where they had a chance cause it was an actual trade issue. Now they're going to get their rear ends handed to them again by pursuing the White List issue which has zero chance as it's a security issue. The country that never learns.

14 ( +23 / -9 )

I do not understand what South Korea expect from their persistant anti-Japan attitude? They will benefit by promoting friendly relationship with Japan. They may be thinking their trade with China more important and unification with North Korea primary importance and do not need U.S. Forces in their country anymore.

Moon said "S Korea will never beaten any more in the future (by Japan and the US) and Korea must be one Korea forever and China is going to be better partner for SK".

19 ( +24 / -5 )

CapuchinToday  07:37 am JST

Korea. The country that doesn't want its cake but wants to eat it too.

Hopefully both sides calm down soon and recognize their self destructive behaviours.

Both sides? Exactly what has Japan done that wasn't calm? They asked for information regarding security over 3 years and South Korea ignored them. Japan told them that unless they do so SK would be removed from their White List, and SK ignored them. SK has refused to cooperate in any "calm" manner, instead they have gone whining to the U.S., the U.N. the WTO, instigated an anti-Japan fest boycotting Japanese goods, blaming everything on Japan upping the volume on WWII issues which have already been resolved but SK refuses to accept. SK has gone so far as to damage the US-JPN-SK stategic alliance. Only one country is failing to act in a "calm" manner. Or perhaps "sane" is a better word.

16 ( +23 / -7 )

@Hachidori

Dear S.Korea, isn’t a boycott also a trade curb?

Nope. The Korean government had nothing to do with the boycott, which is strictly voluntary by public.

-23 ( +7 / -30 )

Dear S. Korea

This has been going on for way longer than necessary. Businesses have been affected on both sides, people have committed suicide in protest or have attacked tourist visiting Seoul.

The 1965 aggrement to normalize relations is the foundation Japan and S. Korea build its relations after past pain and grievances.

It's time for S. Korea to take a step back and keep its promise to normalize relations. You broke the 2015 deal, if you break the 1965 deal what Trust is there to sign any other agreement with Korea?

13 ( +19 / -6 )

Could someone explain to me how Japan is benefiting from this dispute?

-6 ( +3 / -9 )

Nope. The Korean government had nothing to do with the boycott, which is strictly voluntary by public

Buahahaha! You don't believe that for a moment. What was that sticker that Seoul and Busan want to put on "war criminal companies" product? Or municipalities putting "no Japan" banners around the city. Or the Moon saying S. Korea won't lose to Japan again. Or all the propaganda around the country against Japan. The list goes on and on and on.

14 ( +19 / -5 )

@ Samit Basu

Nope. The Korean government had nothing to do with the boycott, which is strictly voluntary by public.

Boycotts were supported by local legislature, which in turn gets it's instructions from the national government. It had everything to do with the Korean government

Good. The WTO is where this should be addressed, not in the streets of Seoul and Tokyo..

While I agree with the premise, this a non-starter at the WTO. This is purely a national matter and doesn't go against WTO rules at all... I fail to see how SK can even begin to be so confused to something that they are trying to rely on... boggles my mind.

17 ( +20 / -3 )

S. Korea demanding they be back on Japan's "trusted countries white list" is as dumb as Japan demanding S. Korea accept products from Fukushima after the nuclear meltdown.

-1 ( +6 / -7 )

Both Korea-s deserve the Memory of the World Annoyance

9 ( +15 / -6 )

Good. The WTO is where this should be addressed, not in the streets of Seoul and Tokyo..

exactly

Good on them for trying to bring in third party. Hopefully both are publicly humiliated by it for causing this circus.

Hear hear!

-5 ( +4 / -9 )

Mommy, mommy, Japan is not selling us things, just because I demand money from them every now and then and seize their company's assets!

10 ( +18 / -8 )

oldman_13Today  07:03 am JST

Japan in July imposed tighter export controls on three chemicals South Korean companies use to produce semiconductors and displays for smartphones and TVs, citing unspecified security concerns over South Korea's export controls on sensitive materials that could be used for military purposes.

'Unspecified' security concerns huh? How typical, once again no mentions of the 156 cases of export violations that the South Koreans themselves admitted to.

Pathetic.

Go Japan.

The author of the article is Korean contributor for AP. If anyone ever wondered why the "JapanToday" was so quiet about South Korea concerning re-export violations, there's your answer.

14 ( +15 / -1 )

Could someone explain to me how Japan is benefiting from this dispute?

If you have a neighbor constantly accusing you for something that you didn’t do, repeatedly demanding money and apologies based on that, stealing your legitimate assets, breaking every agreements in the past, and spreading lies everywhere only to humiliate you, what would you do? Wouldn’t you say enough is enough? That’s what’s happening right now (about the time!).

So to answer your question, it is the most beneficial for Japan to keep the distance with SK as much as possible and just watch them destroy themselves. There is much more to gain than lose for Japan by cutting relationship with SK.

16 ( +18 / -2 )

Korea should focus on reunification instead of Japan imo. It's like a split family having to deal with Russia, China, US, and Japan. There will be growing pains but you're stronger in the end.

Two fables that describe Korea: The Eagle wounded by the Arrow and the Wind and the Sun. In the latter, the Korea is the wind, and Japan is the man with the coat on.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

South Korea will report that even if it loses, it won in the country.

7 ( +10 / -3 )

Well, South Korea here is pro bono advice: The WTO will NOT entertain your usual histrionics. That is, none of the usual wailing, raving, screaming and ranting will be allowed.

Anyways, what are the international trade law issues that Japan has violated? State your case in a cogent and coherent manner, please!

10 ( +13 / -3 )

I actually admire many Koreans for supporting their own countries industries.

Maybe the USA should do the same.

Since Japans trading practices are the most unfair in the free world, maybe, I see no problem in Buy Japanese Last.

-14 ( +3 / -17 )

I have only three words for SK;

GATT Article 21

https://www.wto.org/english/docs_e/legal_e/gatt47_02_e.htm#articleXXI

Article XXI: Security Exceptions

    Nothing in this Agreement shall be construed

(a)  to require any contracting party to furnish any information the disclosure of which it considers contrary to its essential security interests; or

 

(b)  to prevent any contracting party from taking any action which it considers necessary for the protection of its essential security interests

 

(i)   relating to fissionable materials or the materials from which they are derived;

(ii)  relating to the traffic in arms, ammunition and implements of war and to such traffic in other goods and materials as is carried on directly or indirectly for the purpose of supplying a military establishment;

 

(iii)   taken in time of war or other emergency in international relations; or

 

(c)  to prevent any contracting party from taking any action in pursuance of its obligations under the United Nations Charter for the maintenance of international peace and security.

11 ( +13 / -2 )

@happyhere

Japan is not benefiting from this farce. The LDP and their de-jure leader Shinzo Abe, however, are gaining more popularity and justification in re-militarizing the nation. In the eyes of an average Japanese citizen Koreans are doing something real stupid and while at it they are also insulting Japan, damaging its goods, destroying its flags and causing economic strain for Japan. This is a good propaganda material and LDP is using it quite well. Unfortunately, many many others are either just as complicit in sewing discord between the two nations, or outright stupid in playing into Abe's hands.

-9 ( +3 / -12 )

Nope. The Korean government had nothing to do with the boycott, which is strictly voluntary by public.

Yes. It's been proven already whatever behind the scene he pretends to know are all bluffs

5 ( +7 / -2 )

The Korean government had nothing to do with the boycott, which is strictly voluntary by public.

Um:

"As a trade dispute rages between the Seoul and Tokyo, a district in the South Korean capital was forced to backtrack Tuesday within hours of starting to put up more than 1,000 anti-Japan banners."

Link: https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2019/08/06/national/politics-diplomacy/anti-japan-banners-hung-seoul-district-taken-outcry/

That's not the public, that's the government.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

@AlexBecu

The 1965 aggrement to normalize relations is the foundation Japan and S. Korea build its relations after past pain and grievances. 

It's time for S. Korea to take a step back and keep its promise to normalize relations. You broke the 2015 deal, if you break the 1965 deal what Trust is there to sign any other agreement with Korea?

Another day, another person blindly following another one of Abe's fake propaganda. I’ve posted this comment from ex PM Hatoyama before and will post again for latecomers like you. The problem with your comment is that all your previous governments admitted that individual rights to claim were not extinguished by the 1965 treaty. It is the Abe government that has back-flipped on this issue.

"The Japanese government should go back to its judgment that as for the issue of laborers, the individual rights to claim damages were not completely and finally resolved in the 1965 treaty," said Hatoyama, who served as prime minister in 2009-2010.

Hatoyama said that Shunji Yanai, then director of the treaty bureau at Japan's foreign ministry in 1991, told a parliamentary session at the time that the normalization treaty did not put an end to individual rights to damages.

"It was the official view of the Japanese government in the past, that (forced labor issue) was not finally and completely resolved by the treaty," he said.

-7 ( +1 / -8 )

@Tom Doley

Just like oyatoi who denies 1965 treaty just because of then-president he calls a traitor or a dictator, you are making yourself ridiculous. Don't you get it yet?

Hatoyama when he was the PM of Japan, he didn't take any action whatsoever in terms of these issues, nor got down on his knees and hands to apologize when he was in Seoul. He is just LOOPYing NOW as a ordinary citizen as nobody cares about him.

On the contrary, your ex-president, Roh when he was on duty, officially announced that wartime labor issues

must be taken care domestically by SK government. It is Moon government that has back-flipped on this issue.

All the issues between 2 nations have been long settled finally and completely and the individual rights to claim extinguished or not have no relevance any longer. The ones who want to claim, just go straight to SK government. That's how it works.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

@showchinmono

...you are making yourself look ridiculous. Don’t you get it yet?

Quite the contrary. You don’t seem to comprehend fully what the following says that makes you look exactly like what you accuse others.....

"It was the official view of the Japanese government in the past, that (forced labor issue) was not finally and completely resolved by the treaty," he said.

He and your past governments never said...

The ones who want to claim, just go straight to SK government. That’s how it works.

You can ignore Hatoyama all you like, but you can’t ignore comments made by other previous governments.

PS

On the contrary, your ex-president

Don’t automatically assume he is my ex president just because I support Korea on this issue. I will support Korea when it comes to history revisionism, environmental protection etc. and support Japan in other areas. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate Japan, I’ve just seen too many cases to know very well that hypocrisy and bullying tactics are commonly used against other people and nations, and will support the victims of such tactics.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

@Tom Doley

Please. What has been official stance of J-Govenrment is that Individual rights to claim per se as an intrinsic right each individual owns have not been extinguished. None of ex-PMs of Japan has ever said "*"It was the official view of the Japanese government that (forced labor issue) was not finally and completely resolved by the treaty," ***except this Loopy.** Although I didn't bother checking how exactly he stated it, such has never been official view of Japan. Where did you get such idea from?

Like I said, he had at least his term of 9months or so and he actually visit Seoul and what has he done? Nothing. Did he refer to wartime labors? Nope. Did he got down on his knees and hands? Nope.

Whatever he does or says about his view as an ordinary citizen 9 years after he retired, it is irrelevant.

What irrelevant is what Roh officially declared when he was the president of SK.

You seem not understanding individual rights to claim not extinguished does not make settlements between the 2 nations under 1965 Treaty incomplete and non-final

3 ( +4 / -1 )

For your reference re Japan's stance on 1965 Treaty and individual rights to claim

https://www.taro.org/2018/11/%E6%97%A5%E9%9F%93%E8%AB%8B%E6%B1%82%E6%A8%A9%E3%83%BB%E7%B5%8C%E6%B8%88%E5%8D%94%E5%8A%9B%E5%8D%94%E5%AE%9A.php

2 ( +3 / -1 )

What relevant is what Roh officially declared when he was the president of SK.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

@showchinmono

You reference an article by Kono Taro, the very same man who once told reporters that individual’s right to claim was not terminated by the 1965 treaty after SK’s Supreme Court ruling in 2018 but then later backtracked and told reporters that individual right’s to claim have expired, the very same man who was once pro Korean who hired Korean secretaries to practice Korean but after joining Abe’s cabinet he became an ill-mannered tough-spoken non-smiling anti Korean to save his job (unlike the defense minister who was sacked for smiling in a photo shoot with his Korean counterpart), and the very same man who spoke against the ideologies of nippon kaigi in his early days but then adopted those ideologies of the old man’s club his new boss was part of. In other words, he has no credibility and respect whatsoever, and represents a part of Japan’s attempt at historical revisionism.

Regarding Roh, you and the Japanese media use your statement to try and absolve the previous stance of the Japanese government but fail to mention that Roh also said as part of that statement that the 1965 treaty did NOT cover illegal actions, comfort women, Sakhalin Koreans, and victims of atomic bomb. The Supreme Court ruling was for inhumane acts on forced laborers, ie. illegal actions.

Unfortunately, the way I see this is that Japan has no ground to stand regarding this issue. If it went to arbitration Korea would win with a 99% probability. 1% loss is due to potential bribing of Japanese officials. It’s unfortunate that Abe has promulgated this propaganda to such an extent that if it ever went to a verdict, Japan’s ego and credibility will be severely bruised.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

@Tom Doley

You should not quibble over the official governmental opinion press-released under Roh administration where it admits 1) wartime labor issues were comprehensively considered in the 1965 treaty, 2) SK government is to bear moral obligation including compensation to solve this issue.

https://japanese.joins.com/article/597/246597.html

https://www.nikkei.com/article/DGXKZO20159390Y7A810C1EA1000/

https://www.sankei.com/world/news/181030/wor1810300029-n1.html

As a matter of fact, SK official view had been all the time that individual rights to claim were all settled  until Roh back-flipped. Even then, his administration buried his hatchet, at least, as far as this issue is concerned. And yet Moon who back-flipped once again what his ex-boss had decided despite himself being as his right-arm man in his administration fully knowing the process up to its official governmental opinion. Look at what’s happening to 2015 CW agreement. Is it SK government? or Korean nature?  that doesn’t mind ignoring and scrapping International promise that previous governments as rulers of a sovereign nation have concluded?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

In the country where a new ruler tends to completely annihilate his/her previous ruler as its ex-political opponents, such things could happen , like what we all know how the end days have been like for ex-presidents of SK, which have no^exception so far. Who the heck is ex-president who has ad completely peaceful retirement-life? This is very very interesting theme for anyone studying politics and cultural anthropology.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

@Tom Doley

Regarding Roh, you and the Japanese media use your statement to try and absolve the previous stance of the Japanese government but fail to mention that Roh also said as part of that statement that the 1965 treaty did NOT cover illegal actions, comfort women, Sakhalin Koreans, and victims of atomic bomb. The Supreme Court ruling was for inhumane acts on forced laborers, ie. illegal actions.

illegal in terms of what law? That's the question. We all know and you also know their judgement on illegality is based, after all, on their own judgement on legitimacy of annexation. Reality is that there's another party affected at the other side of the table, who believes in legitimacy of annexation. SK can ruin retirement-lives of historical ex-presidents, keep fabricating its history, keep lying and brainwashing its people all it wants, dening whatever all it likes as far as it is strictly limited only to domestic matters but NOT over issues against other sovereignties

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Unfortunately, the way I see this is that Japan has no ground to stand regarding this issue. If it went to arbitration Korea would win with a 99% probability. 1% loss is due to potential bribing of Japanese officials. It’s unfortunate that Abe has promulgated this propaganda to such an extent that if it ever went to a verdict, Japan’s ego and credibility will be severely bruised.

OK that's your personal view again, except you didn't refer to the fact it is SK which rejected arbitration.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

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