(ATTN: ADDS remarks, details in last 5 paras)
SEJONG, July 2 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's finance minister on Thursday called for Japan to adopt a "sincere attitude" in talks to resolve a trade row between the two Asian neighbors.
Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki said South Korea "calls on the Japanese government to show a stance of progress with a sincere attitude to lift its export curbs."
Seoul and Tokyo have been at loggerheads since July last year, after Japan abruptly rolled out restrictions on exports of key industrial materials to South Korea.
South Korea reopened a lawsuit at the World Trade Organization last month, which was suspended last year in a goodwill gesture, as Japan has remained unresponsive to Seoul's repeated requests to lift the regulations.
The WTO plans to decide in July whether to set up a panel to look into South Korea's complaint against Japan.
Although the trade row dragged on, South Korea's efforts to cut its reliance on Japanese materials and parts have made significant progress, Hong said.
SK Materials Co., a South Korean manufacturer of specialty gas, has begun mass-producing etching gas, almost a year after Japan imposed export curbs on the material critical for chip manufacturing.
The Japanese curbs also served as an "opportunity for local firms to strengthen supply chains by diversifying sources of their imports of materials, parts and equipment," Hong said.
Data compiled by the Korea International Trade Association showed South Korea's imports of hydrogen fluoride from Japan over the January-May period plunged 85.8 percent on-year. Accordingly, Japan only accounted for 12 percent of South Korea's total imports of the material, down from 44 percent posted last year.
For South Korea, Tokyo's move was widely seen as retaliation for a verdict made by a Seoul court in 2018 that ordered Japanese firms to compensate Korean victims for their forced labor during its 1910-45 colonial rule.
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