Japan lifts export curbs on South Korea as Yoon visits

By Reuters   March 16, 2023 | 03:16 am PT
Japan lifts export curbs on South Korea as Yoon visits
South Korea's President Yoon Suk Yeol and his wife Kim Keon-hee arrive at Tokyo International Airport (Haneda Airport) in Tokyo, Japan March 16, 2023. Photo by Reuters/Issei Kato
Japan will end export controls on materials for semiconductors destined for South Korea, and Seoul will withdraw a complaint filed with the World Trade Organization, the countries announced Thursday.

Trade ministries from the two sides made the announcement as South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol arrived in Tokyo for a summit with Japan's prime minister intended to rebuild ties between the two neighbours.

Tense relations between Japan and South Korea reached a nadir in 2018 after a South Korean court ordered Japanese firms to compensate victims of wartime forced labour and their families.

Japan's trade ministry said in a statement it had decided to lift the curbs and return to the "special general blanket permit... as was the case prior to July 2019".

"We confirmed that the Korean side will announce the withdrawal of a petition to the WTO regarding Japan's export controls," it said, a provision that was confirmed by the trade ministry in Seoul.

Japan rejected the 2018 South Korean court ruling, arguing that colonial-era disputes were settled in 1965. Diplomatic ties were normalised that year and Tokyo gave Seoul loans and economic aid worth some $800 million, the equivalent of several billion dollars now.

The two sides imposed tit-for-tat trade measures and halted cooperation on several fronts as ties frayed.

South Koreans also mounted a widespread boycott of Japanese goods, including beer, cosmetic products and cars.

Yoon is visiting Japan after announcing a plan to compensate victims of forced labour without any direct involvement by Tokyo.

The rapprochement between the Asian neighbours, both key US allies, has been welcomed internationally but the forced labour compensation deal has spurred opposition inside South Korea.

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