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Japan's claims that key material gets funneled into N. Korea 'groundless:' minister

All Headlines 16:42 July 09, 2019

By Kang Yoon-seung

SEOUL, July 9 (Yonhap) -- South Korea on Tuesday rebutted the possibility that a key imported industrial material has been shipped to North Korea in breach of international sanctions against Pyongyang as was alleged by Japan.

Tokyo has claimed that its strict regulations of shipments of key materials to South Korea are due in part to Seoul's non-compliance with U.N.-led sanctions on North Korea.

"We have found no evidence of the transfer of hydrogen fluoride imported from Japan to any U.N.-sanctioned countries, including North Korea," Industry Minister Sung Yun-mo said in a hastily arranged press briefing, claiming that local firms are faithfully abiding by related regulations.

The remark came after Japan raised the suspicion that hydrogen fluoride shipped to South Korea was funneled into the North.

Sung said that Japan should share the grounds for such allegations instead of just raising unsubstantiated claims.

"We urge Japan to stop making groundless allegations," Sung added.

Starting last week, the Japanese government applied more complicated procedures for exporting fluorine polyimide, resist and etching gas to South Korea, a move that could adversely affect major local tech giants, such as Samsung and LG Electronics.

Fluorine polyimide is used to make flexible organic light-emitting diode displays; resist is a thin layer used to transfer a circuit pattern to a semiconductor substrate; and etching gas is needed in the semiconductor fabrication process.

Japan's strict export regulations came after last year's ruling by the South Korean Supreme Court that ordered Japanese firms to compensate South Korean victims of forced labor during Japan's 1910-45 colonization of the Korean Peninsula.

Japan has lashed out at the ruling, claiming that all reparation issues stemming from its colonial rule were settled under a 1965 government-to-government accord that normalized bilateral relations.

South Korea, whose main export products include semiconductors and smartphones, relied on Japan for more than 90 percent of its supplies of resist and fluorine polyimide and for 44 percent of its etching gas over the January-May period, according to the Korea International Trade Association.

Japan's claims that key material gets funneled into N. Korea 'groundless:' minister - 1

colin@yna.co.kr
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