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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Japan ends export curbs on Seoul as Yoon visits

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TOKYO—Japan will end export controls on materials for semiconductors destined for South Korea, and Seoul will withdraw a complaint filed with the World Trade Organization, the countries announced Thursday.

Trade ministries from the two sides made the announcement as South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol arrived in Tokyo for a summit with Japan’s prime minister intended to rebuild ties between the two neighbors.

Tense relations between Japan and South Korea reached a nadir in 2018 after a South Korean court ordered Japanese firms to compensate victims of wartime forced labor and their families “special general blanket permit… as was the case prior to July 2019”.

“We confirmed that the Korean side will announce the withdrawal of a petition to the WTO regarding Japan’s export controls,” it said, a provision that was confirmed by the trade ministry in Seoul.

Japan rejected the 2018 South Korean court ruling, arguing that colonial-era disputes were settled in 1965. Diplomatic ties were normalized that year and Tokyo gave Seoul loans and economic aid worth some $800 million, the equivalent of several billion dollars now.

The two sides imposed tit-for-tat trade measures and halted cooperation on several fronts as ties frayed.

South Koreans also mounted a widespread boycott of Japanese goods, including beer, cosmetic products and cars.

Yoon is visiting Japan after announcing a plan to compensate victims of forced labor without any direct involvement by Tokyo.

The rapprochement between the Asian neighbors, both key US allies, has been welcomed internationally but the forced labor compensation deal has spurred opposition inside South Korea.

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