Samsung boss visits Tokyo amid Japan-Korea trade scuffle escalation

Samsung boss JY Lee is reportedly planning talks with Japanese business leaders to discuss how to go forward with Japan's export restrictions.
Written by Cho Mu-Hyun, Contributing Writer

Samsung Vice Chairman JY Lee has visited Japan amid escalating tension between South Korea and Japan over the latter's export ban on key materials that go into semiconductors and displays.

The de facto boss of Samsung Group, which consists of its crown jewel Samsung Electronics, left for Japan on Sunday and will reportedly begin meetings with business leaders there to discuss the issue.

Samsung declined to comment on the matter.

Last month, the Japanese government announced trade restrictions on exporting fluorinated polyimide, resist, and hydrogen fluoride to South Korean companies that came into effect on July 4. Japanese companies exporting those goods need government approval to move them.

The approval process takes 90 days, which will effectively halt imports by South Korea companies such as Samsung, LG, and SK Hynix of the materials for the time being.

See also: Japan to restrict foreign investment for domestic tech and telco companies

Fluorinated polyamide goes into making OLED displays -- including the flexible display used for Samsung's foldable phone the Galaxy Fold -- while resist and hydrogen fluoride are key materials for making semiconductor products. 

Japan reportedly controls 90% of the market for two out of the three materials.

Samsung Electronics is the world's largest memory semiconductor maker, with its chips accounting for some 20% of South Korean exports.

Hong Nam-ki, Minister of Economy and Finance and Deputy Prime Minister of South Korea, said on Monday Japan must revoke the trade restriction as it would negatively affect the global economy.

Samsung's Lee also met with SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son last week when the latter visited Seoul to propose a investment plan for artificial intelligence where they reportedly also discussed the trade restrictions.


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