Japan and South Korea have resumed disputes since last year. Recently, not only have they not resolved their disputes, but they have become increasingly fierce. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry announced on Monday (July 1) that it will adjust its export rules to South Korea and remove the semiconductor and display-related raw materials exported to South Korea from the “white list” to cancel preferential treatment for South Korea. This actually means that the restriction on the embargo against South Korea is a revenge against Japan and South Korea.

The three materials that are whitelisted are hydrogen fluoride for cleaning semiconductors, fluorinated polyimides for televisions and smartphone displays, and sensitizer “photoresists” coated on semiconductor substrates. These three materials are subject to normal procedures and are approved for export to Korea.

Looking back at the United States to restrict local companies to sell chips to China’s communications equipment company Huawei, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is similar to US President Trump. Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun reported that the relevant measures were actually embargoed, meaning that the Japanese government would hinder or delay the approval process for goods.

Park Tae-hwan, a senior official of the Korea Ministry of Industry, Trade and Resources, expressed regret over the Japanese practice and said that he would consider filing a complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO) on the incident; Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Planning and Finance, Hong Nanji, also indicated that South Korea may take countermeasures.

Although South Korea’s semiconductor market far surpasses that of Japan, the technology for manufacturing semiconductor raw materials is still in the hands of Japan. For example, in order to manufacture semiconductor-required photoresists, Japan has a global market share of 90%, and the export of photoresists will undoubtedly be for Korean semiconductor companies. Cause an impact.

Japan and South Korea friction from the judgment of the court

Japan’s retaliation against South Korea was rated as “Trump-type tariff pressure” by public opinion. To explain why Abe is “Trumping”, it is necessary to start from the beginning of the incident.

On October 30 last year, the Supreme Court of South Korea sentenced Japan’s Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Co., Ltd. to lose the case, and Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Kim had to pay 100 million won (about 690,000 Hong Kong dollars) to each of the four Korean peninsulas who were forced to requisition during World War II. The case was reviewed for 13 years, and three of the four plaintiffs have passed away.

The verdict touched the Japanese nerve. Abe and Foreign Minister Kono Taro expressed regret over the ruling on the day of the judgment and could not accept the result. He also said that Japan would not pay attention to the judgment and compensation. According to the Japanese explanation, according to the “Request for Rights Agreement” signed by the Japan-South Korea diplomatic relations in 1965, South Korea has renounced the right to seek compensation against Japan for aggression against South Korea.

The incident has gradually become more and more serious. The South Korean plaintiffs have initiated legal proceedings against Nippon Steel & Sumitomo, trying to confiscate the assets of the company in Korea. At the same time, they also encouraged other families of victims of World War II to seek compensation from Japanese companies that have left the World War II. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in November In the same defeat, the court asked Mitsubishi to compensate the workers for the forced recruitment during World War II.

Japan countered this. In the ASEAN summit held in Singapore in November, Japan distributed a leaflet to the attendees on the scene of “Korea’s unreasonable request to Japan” and claimed to sue South Korea to the International Court of Justice. Deadlock.

a wave of conflicts

Following the waves of events, the relationship between the two sides continued to deteriorate. On November 21st, South Korea officially announced the dissolution of the “Conciliation and Cure Foundation” established by the previous government and the Japanese side to sign the “Korea-Japan Comfort Women Agreement.” The agreement was reached by the Park Geun-hye government in December 2015 with the Japanese side, recognizing that the issue of “comfort women” has been “completely and irreversibly resolved.” Abe apologized for the Japanese atrocities and allocated 1 billion yen (about 70 million Hong Kong dollars) to set up a foundation to help with compensation and aftercare.

After the government took office, Wen asked to review the “comfort women” agreement, and finally found that Park Geun-hye’s government “has not fully considered the victim’s appeal.” Although South Korea has not really torn the agreement, Japan has regarded South Korea’s position as a remorse, indicating that it is unacceptable.

On December 20 last year, the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force P-1 maritime patrol aircraft claimed to be locked by the Korean naval destroyer “Guangkai Tuwang” (DDH-971) shipborne radar on the outskirts of the Noto Peninsula. The Japanese side expressed strong dissatisfaction, but South Korea said that the Japanese side fell, and it also said that the Japanese patrol aircraft flying over the destroyer at low altitude was a threatening act.

The Japanese Defense Ministry and the South Korean Ministry of National Defense have publicly filmed fragments to prove that they are “correct.” The two sides started consultations in January this year but failed, and the ROK also refused to open the radar records at the request of the Japanese side. The two countries still adhere to their positions and things have not been resolved.

On February 8, the National Assembly President Wen Xixiang mentioned the issue of Japan and South Korea when he was interviewed by Bloomberg. Wen Xixiang suggested that if the Japanese emperor could apologize to the South Korean side in the “comfort women” incident, it would solve all problems. He Ye immediately condemned Wen Xixiang’s remarks “extremely unreasonable” and “extremely rude speech.”

Wen Xixiang’s “Apocalypse Speaking of the Emperor” seriously stimulated Japanese politics. The Japanese Liberal Democratic Party appeared to demand that the government boycott South Korea and even break the voice with South Korea. There is also a trend of condemning South Korea in the society. The Japanese magazine “Wen Yi Chun Qiu” issued a feature article “Comprehensive Simulation of Japan-Korea Breakover” in April, calling on the Japanese government to impose sanctions on South Korea. The friction between the two countries has become increasingly fierce. The Japanese media quoted in March that the Japanese government intends to raise tariff retaliation against South Korea.

Although the officials of the two countries held talks and consultations but failed, the two sides canceled the talks scheduled to be held in the G20 summit in Osaka in June. Wen Zai and Abe only had about eight seconds at the meeting. Handshake contact, no other communication.

With Japan’s embargo announced on Monday, the friction between the two countries has become hot, but there is little chance of a fierce clash between the two sides and even a trade war. There are two reasons for this: First, this is still an emotional dispute that has erupted due to historical issues. Second, in the closely connected industries of semiconductors, Japan and South Korea are important stakeholders. Both lose.

Japan-Korea conflict is due to history

Japan and South Korea friction is not the first time, but occurs periodically, and each reason is almost the same, related to the history of the Japanese occupation.

Although Japan and South Korea have a territorial dispute over Dokdo (called Zhudao), the conflict between Japan and South Korea is mainly concentrated in historical understanding. For example, the last Japanese-South Korean conflict occurred in 2017, when Korean folk groups rebuilt the bronze statue of the “comfort women” girl. Placed in front of the Consulate General of Japan in South Korea in Busan, replacing the girl portrait that had been withdrawn, Japan once recalled the ambassador to Korea and protested and stopped negotiations on the Swap Agreement. Until the beginning of 2018, the situation on the Korean peninsula stabilized. The Japanese side was eager to use the power of South Korea to push the stage of reopening dialogue with North Korea, and Japan-ROK relations returned to normal.

Looking at the conflict between Japan and South Korea this time, it is the most temperamental use. Wen Xixiang’s speech is a remark that has no worries about the consequences. Korean netizens launched a boycott of the Japanese goods movement after Japan’s embargo restrictions, calling for the cancellation of Japanese goods and cancellation of travel to Japan, as well as China’s fishing island several years ago. The dispute is similar to buying Japanese goods.

On the other hand, the opposition voices of the Japanese Liberal Democratic Party and the right-wing groups are also untenable, because according to the principle of jus cogens in international law, the state cannot waive its people’s rights through the treaty. In the agreement signed between Japan and South Korea, the waiver of recourse does not include the claim for recovery in the name of the individual. This has been personally acknowledged by Kono, which means that the Korean group’s claim for compensation from Japanese companies is not in violation of international law.

The semiconductor industry is indispensable

Secondly, the current so-called “Japan-Korea trade war” smoke is mainly focused on semiconductor and display manufacturing materials. There are also public opinion in Japan that the implementation of the embargo on high-tech materials in South Korea will only hurt Japan itself. The semiconductor industry is dominated by the United States, Japan, South Korea, China and Taiwan, and the industries are linked to each other.

The memory products produced in Korea rank first in the world, and the market share of random access memory (DRAM) exceeds 70%. If South Korea is unable to produce DRAM due to Japanese embargoed materials, the supply of DRAMs worldwide, including Japan, will drop sharply, and prices will inevitably rise sharply. DRAM is the most basic original of all computers and mobile phones, which will affect the price of all electronic products including Japan, and Japan will suffer.

In the long run, this will also stimulate South Korea to develop its own manufacturing technology and reduce its dependence on Japan. Japan’s competitiveness will be weakened. Therefore, this so-called Japanese-Korean semiconductor trade war, I believe that it is impossible to really fight.

Waiting for time to dilute the contradiction

The historical contradiction between Japan and South Korea is a long-standing problem between the two countries, and both sides have experience. The biggest possibility is that after the event cools down, the two sides will resume their contacts due to some opportunities. The situation is the same as the dramatic change in the Korean peninsula last year, and Japan’s initiative to repair relations with South Korea. Japan’s former defense minister, Onodera, said in June that the best way to treat South Korea is to “politely ignore it” and wait for a change of opportunity in a less intense but cold attitude.

Abe has been handling the more difficult Sino-Japanese Diaoyu Islands dispute since he took office. He is also actively looking for ways to deal with the Trump administration. He is also focusing on foreign affairs, as well as foreign affairs, especially in the “American supremacism”. Today, when it is involved in the whirlpool of trade wars, it is expected that Japan and South Korea will not open up new battlefields.

The handover between Japan and South Korea is not limited to North Korea and the United States. The mutual neighbor China also affects the development of bilateral relations. China has repeatedly stated that it does not want Japan-Korean relations to deteriorate. President Xi Jinping expressed his intention to accelerate the promotion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP) and the China-Japan-Korea Free Trade Area at the G20 Summit in Osaka. The former includes Japan and South Korea, the latter The protagonist is Japan and South Korea, and only Japan and South Korea can maintain a good relationship. The next China-Japan-ROK summit will be held in China. Whether China can become a bridge and let Japan and South Korea restore relations is worthy of attention.

Excerpted from the 170th issue of “Hong Kong 01” Weekly (July 8, 2019) “The two main reasons why the disputes continue to worsen the “Japan-South Korea trade war” will not continue.”

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