SEOUL – South Korea announced on Monday that it is withdrawing commercial privileges from Japan in retaliation for restrictions the neighboring country applied to its exports amid continued deterioration of bilateral relations.
The measure, announced by the Seoul Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, removed Tokyo from the list of 29 preferential trading partners which in practice will lead to a tightening of the conditions for exporting strategic goods to Japan.
“We need to put in place an export control system, taking into account that it is difficult to work with a country that frequently violates basic rules of this type or operates an illegal system,” South Korean trade minister Sung Yun-mo said at a press conference.
He made no reference to similar restrictions that Japan will apply in September on its exports to South Korea that are subject to military use, the measure is interpreted as a replica of that initiative announced last week by the Japanese executive.
More than one thousand products will be affected by Japanese restrictions, which will be noticed in key South Korean industries such as the automobile or petrochemical industry and adds to the similar limitations that Tokyo imposed before other materials, especially by the technological sector of the neighboring country.
In parallel to the announcement made by the South Korean ministry, the country’s president Moon Jae-in said that it is necessary to give “a mature response” instead of “emotional” to what he described as “economic reprisals” undertaken by Tokyo.
“We must maintain our determination but also seek solutions with a cool head and a long-term perspective,” he said during a meeting with his cabinet, local news agency Yonhap reported.
The origin of the confrontation was a ruling by the South Korean Supreme Court at the end of 2018, that Japanese companies with a presence in South Korea would be forced to pay compensation to Korean citizens (or their heirs) who were enslaved during World War Two.
Based on the 1965 treaty, Japan, which colonized the Korean peninsula between 1910 and 1945, donated $300 million to the victims, money that Park Chung-hee’s military dictatorship did not pass on to them, which is why thousands of them recently denounced the government of South Korea.