SEOUL — South Korean President Moon Jae In on Wednesday again criticized Japan for tightening rules on semiconductor-related exports to its neighbor.
In a meeting at the presidential office with executives of some 30 leading companies, Moon also expressed concern that the measure may remain in place, and urged cooperation between the government and companies, according to his office.
As of last Thursday, exporters need government approval before shipping to South Korea three materials needed to produce semiconductors and display panels for smartphones and TVs.
The measure — introduced following what Tokyo perceives as Seoul’s failure to address a months-long row over compensation for wartime labor — could hit leading South Korean chipmakers such as Samsung Electronics Co. and SK Hynix Inc.
In his opening remarks at Wednesday’s meeting, Moon charged the trade curbs were adopted by the Japanese government for political purposes, and that they have been linked to U.N. sanctions against North Korea without basis.
“It is never appropriate to use economic retaliation for political purposes and to make groundless comments,” Moon said.
“Our government is strongly determined to make Japan withdraw its unfair export tightening, while at the same time preparing measures” to cope with the move, he added.
Earlier this week, Moon hinted at retaliation if the export curbs cause “actual damage” to South Korean companies.
In adopting more stringent rules, Japan cited “significantly undermined” trust between the countries, and cases where certain sensitive items were exported to South Korea “with inadequate management by companies.”
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, during a TV show on Sunday, indicated a connection to his country’s move with the sanctions imposed on North Korea over its nuclear weapon and missile development programs.
South Korea has denied the possibility that a key material used in chipmaking may have made its way to North Korea, despite U.N. sanctions, after it was imported from Japan.
The companies invited to Wednesday’s talks include conglomerates such as Samsung Group, SK Group, LG Group and Lotte Group. A total of 34 executives attended, according to the presidential office.
The meeting was aimed at getting their views on recent economic conditions and the effects of Japan’s tightened export rules.
The two countries are making arrangements for a meeting in Tokyo on Friday, at which South Korea plans to demand the withdrawal of the curbs while asking Japan about the reasons behind their introduction, according to South Korean Trade, Industry and Energy Minister Sung Yun Mo.
Relations between the countries have sunk to their lowest in years since South Korea’s top-court ruling last autumn ordered Japanese firms to compensate groups of South Koreans over forced labor during Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.