SEOUL: South Korea protested on Wednesday against a Japanese plan to remove it from a list of countries that face minimum trade restrictions, saying it would undermine their decades-old economic and security cooperation and threaten free trade.
Japan’s planned revision of a law to take South Korea off its so-called white list comes amid a deepening row over compensation for wartime forced labor and after Japan tightened curbs this month on exports to South Korea of high-tech materials used for making memory chips and display panels.
South Korea’s industry ministry said in a statement Japan’s removal of South Korea from the list would undermine their economic and security partnership.
It asked Japan to scrap the plan, flagging concerns over wider disruptions of global supply chains involving South Korean chip and screen makers.
“It is a very grave matter that shakes the foundation of South Korea-Japan economic partnership and Northeast Asian security cooperation that has been maintained and developed for more than 60 years,” Sung Yoon-mo, the South Korean industry minister, told a briefing.
“Removal of South Korea from the white list of countries is against international norms and we are worried about its serious negative impact on global value chains and free trade,” Sung said.
Japan is due to decide on a revision of its list after canvassing public opinion, which was due to be done by Wednesday.
Japan will “steadily progress” with the removal process, Japanese Trade Minister Hiroshige Seko told reporters, adding that each country can make its own decision regarding the white list.
Japanese broadcaster NHK reported that an unusually large number of opinions had been submitted – more than 10,000 – and most were in favor of dropping South Korea.
The government was looking to implement the change as early as next month, NHK said.
Questions over the list come after Japan this month tightened curbs on exports of high-tech materials to South Korea.
The restrictions came as Japan complained of the erosion of trust with South Korea after a South Korean court ruled last year that Japanese companies had to pay compensation to South Koreans forced to work in Japanese factories during Japan’s occupation of the Korean peninsula from 1910 to 1945.
Japan believes the issue was settled under a 1965 treaty and the court ruling violated international law.