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Asia Minute: South Korean Trade Minister Heads to Washington for Help

AP Photo / Ahn Young-joon

An escalating dispute between Japan and South Korea is moving into a new phase this week. South Korean officials are coming to Washington to ask for help from the United States.

Government officials from Japan and South Korea have been dealing with an economic dispute for several weeks. Japan has tightened export controls to South Korea on three chemicals, which are used in the production of semiconductors and smart phones.

Japanese government officials have said there has been a “significant loss of trust” with South Korea — adding that sensitive materials that could be used in weapons have not been properly handled in the past.

The dispute follows a ruling by South Korea’s top court that its citizens can sue Japanese companies for using forced Korean labor during World War II. Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary says the two issues are not directly linked, but he said the court ruling had damaged the “relationship of trust” between the two countries.

Japan says all reparation issues involving World War II were resolved when the countries resumed diplomatic relations more than fifty years ago.

South Korea says the export controls violate World Trade Organization rules — Japan disagrees.

South Korea’s Trade Minister will be in Washington this week to deliver the message that this dispute will impact U.S. technology companies — including Apple and Google.

South Korean companies are major suppliers of components for products from iPads to smart phones, and they warn the disruption in supplies will have ripple effects extending to the United States.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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