SEOUL – The prices of Dynamic RAM chips increased this week for the first time in 10 months due to restrictions imposed by Japan on the export of key materials for the product to South Korea, the world’s leading manufacturer of the chips.
The average price of an 8-gigabit DDR4 DRAM chip, considered a benchmark, rose to $3 this week – the first increase since Sept. 14, 2018, according to market research firm TrendForce division DRAMeXchange on Friday.
DRAM prices have fallen steadily this year due to oversupply and weakening demand.
No price recovery was expected until the second half of the year; however, Tokyo’s export restrictions on basic materials acquired by South Korean companies to manufacture these chips have now increased purchases for fear of breaking the supply chain.
South Korean firms Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix are the two largest global manufacturers of memory chips and together account for 70% of the overall market share.
Tokyo has claimed it imposed the restrictions because it suspects that some of these materials – fluorinated polyimides, for example – are ending up in the hands of North Korea for its chemical weapons program.
However, the measure appears to be a response to the rulings of several South Korean courts – including the Supreme Court – ordering Japanese companies to pay compensation to Korean citizens (or their heirs) enslaved by them during World War II.
Japan, which colonized the Korean Peninsula between 1910-1945, claims that all compensation issues for the victims enslaved by Japanese companies was addressed in a 1965 treaty.
In accordance with the treaty, Tokyo donated $300 million to the neighboring country, which however did not reach the intended victims under the military dictatorship of Park Chung-hee, resulting in thousands of them suing the South Korean government this year.