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(LEAD) SK Materials begins mass production of etching gas

Industry 14:48 June 17, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS more info at bottom)

SEOUL, July 17 (Yonhap) -- SK Materials Co., a South Korean manufacturer of specialty gas, has recently begun mass-producing etching gas, almost a year after Japan imposed export curbs on the material critical for chip manufacturing, its parent SK Group said Wednesday.

Last year, SK Materials built a plant with an annual production capacity of 15 tons of high-purity etching gas in Yeongju, about 230 kilometers southeast of Seoul.

SK Materials appears likely to supply its etching gas to SK hynix Inc., South Korea's second-largest memory chipmaker owned by SK Group. SK Materials declined to comment.

This photo provided by SK Materials Co. on Nov. 28, 2019, shows the company's researchers working at its semiconductor material research center in Yeongju, North Gyeongsang Province. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

The move comes as South Korea has been pushing to boost localizations of key industrial materials to reduce its heavy reliance on Japan.

In July, Tokyo imposed tighter regulations on exports to Seoul of three materials -- resist, etching gas and fluorinated polyimide -- that are critical for the production of semiconductors and flexible displays.

Japan also removed South Korea from its list of trusted trading partners.

South Korea views the Japanese moves as retaliation against 2018 South Korean Supreme Court rulings ordering Japanese firms to compensate South Korean victims of forced labor during Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.

SK Materials said it also plans to produce spin-on-carbon hard mask and Arf photoresist, both key materials in the lithography process on chipmaking.

SK Materials said it aims to set up a production facility by next year after investing 40 billion won (US$33 million) and to start to produce 50,000 gallons of photoresist from 2022. The new plant is likely to be established near Sejong, some 120 kilometers south of Seoul, it added.


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