SEOUL, Jul 10, 2019, Hankyoreh. “A vicious cycle of action and reaction is certainly not desirable for either of our countries,” said South Korean President Moon Jae-in on July 8 while referring to the Japanese government’s imposition of export controls on key materials used in the manufacture of semiconductors and displays. But Moon also noted that the South Korean government “will have no choice but to take the necessary measures if South Korean companies suffer actual harm”, reported the Hankyoreh.
“Not only South Korea but the entire world is concerned about the efforts [by the Japanese government] to impose politically motivated restrictions on mutually beneficial trade between private-sector companies,” Moon said on Monday while presiding over a meeting of senior secretaries and advisors at the Blue House. This was the first time that Moon had spoken directly about the Japanese government’s export controls. Moon was responding to remarks made the previous day by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who took issue with the South Korean government’s supposed lack of implementation of sanctions against North Korea and hinted that Japan might place additional restrictions on exports.
“I’m asking the Japanese to withdraw their [export control] measures and to engage in sincere deliberations between our two countries. I hope that Japan will return to the principle of free trade that it has always espoused,” Moon said.
“President Moon asked Japan to retract its measures and to engage in deliberations in order to prevent our friendly bilateral relations from being damaged,” said Blue House spokesperson Ko Min-jung.
The South Korean president also emphasized close cooperation between the government and corporations.
“In an unprecedented crisis, it’s of paramount importance for the government and the business sector to remain in communication and to cooperate closely. Depending on how circumstances unfold, we may also have to consider setting up an emergency response system in which the public and private sectors work together.
The Blue House and related ministries must all be proactive about paying heed to the difficulties that the changing circumstances impose on the affected companies, discussing potential solutions with them, and generously providing the necessary support,” Moon said. During a roundtable meeting with representatives of 30 major South Korean companies planned for July 10, Moon plans to discuss the difficulties resulting from Japan’s export controls and potential responses.
The government’s intended approach is to respond swiftly, without letting emotion take over. Moon himself said that “the government will continue working calmly to find a diplomatic solution.”
“Rather than fighting back by imposing restrictions on exports to Japan, we will be working to exert diplomatic pressure by winning over the US, China, and the EU to our side. We will also lodge a complaint with the World Trade Organization against Japan — the country that has benefited the most from the system of free trade since World War II — for violating that system because of its disagreement with South Korea over historical issues,” an official at the Blue House said.
One of the things that Moon emphasized on Monday was fostering the domestic production of key parts and materials. “The government will designate the development of the parts, materials, and equipment industry as a top priority for national economic policy and will mobilize all available resources, including public funding and tax policy, to help companies out. Looking into the mid- and long term, we will regard this as an opportunity to resolve structural issues in the South Korean economy that have built up over several decades. We will also forge a more reciprocal and balanced trading relationship with Japan so as to tackle our severe trade deficit,” Moon said.
Moon also called on both the ruling and opposition parties to work together on this issue despite their differences. “We must combine our strength in order for the government and corporations to work through their difficulties,” he said.
By Seong Yeon-cheol, staff reporter