EghtesadOnline: In an apparent tit-for-tat move, South Korea said Monday it will remove Japan from its "whitelist" of trusted trade partners, an act that risks further exacerbating tensions between the two US allies.
Trade, Industry and Energy Minister Sung Yun-mo said the government will strip Japan of its fast-track status by downgrading it one notch to a newly established classification in its export control system, Nikkei reported.
"We are pushing for this regulation revision according to our own examinations," Sung told reporters in Seoul. "I want to say that we are doing this legitimately in line with both domestic and international laws."
The ministry said the new classification will tighten its control on more than 1,700 strategic products and materials being exported to Japan. After listening to opinions for 20 days from entities including the Japanese government, as well as South Korean companies and people, Seoul will put Tokyo in the new category next month, Financial Tribune reported.
In short, the revision means that South Korean companies exporting strategic materials and products to Japan are required to submit five documents—up from three—with the process taking up to 15 days, as opposed to the current five.
The ministry denied that the move was a countermeasure against Japan, which earlier this month took South Korea off its own whitelist.
Japan said it acted because of questions over South Korea's management of strategic materials. But Seoul believes Tokyo made its move because the government of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was upset with South Korean Supreme Court rulings last year that forced Japanese companies to pay reparations to Koreans forced to work in Japan during the colonial period (1910-1945).
Monday's move comes amid a consumer boycott in South Korea of Japanese products and services.
Experts say the two countries need to take the heat out of the tensions, and focus on resolving what many see as a lose-lose situation.
"South Korea and Japan are neighbors that cannot be separated. Fortunately, the two countries share democracy and capitalism as well as close exchanges in the private sector that have developed for the last two decades," Gil Yun-hyung, a former Tokyo correspondent of the Hankyoreh newspaper said in a forum. "We can argue with each other, but can resolve any issue through dialogue and compromise."