South Korea announced on Monday that it had stripped Japan of its status as a “trusted trading partner” in response to Tokyo’s decision to place export restrictions on its East Asian neighbor.
The South Korean trade ministry said that it will restructure its export partners by separating them into three separate brackets, placing Japan in its own newly established bracket.
Japan had previously been part of a top-tier list of 29 countries subject to preferential export procedures, all members of whom are signed up to four of the world’s most important control agreements. Under their new bracket, Seoul acknowledged that Japan would remain committed to four international agreements “but operat[ing] an export control system that violates international norms.”
“We need to put an export control system into operation considering the fact that it is hard to work closely with a country that frequently violates basic rules of export controls or that operates an unlawful system,” said Sung Yun-mo, the Minister of Trade, Energy, and Industry.
For local businesses shipping strategic goods to Japan, the new arrangements will mean they have to gain approval for five separate documents in an approval process that could take over two weeks. Prior to the new regulations, the same process would have taken about five days.
According to data from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, South Korea remains Japan’s third-largest trading partner, purchasing around $54 billion worth of Japanese productions, principally industrial machines, chemicals, and cars
The move is understood to be a tit-for-tat response to Japan’s decision last month to place new trade rules on South Korea after Tokyo took issue with South Korean court rulings ordering Japanese companies to pay compensation to the families of women forced into prostitution in Japan during World War II.
In a meeting with senior staff members on Monday, South Korean President Moon Jae-in urged his compatriots not to engage in “antagonistic nationalism” in response to many people accusing Japan of an “invasion” by trying to subjugate their country economically.