S Korea assessing financial sector risks of wider row with Japan

South Korean vice chairman Jay Y. Lee of Samsung Electronics is traveling to Japan on Sunday. File

South Korea and Japan are close economic partners and key allies of the United States, though they have always been in conflict over territory and other historical disputes.

Moon says South Korea would be left no choice but to take unspecified countermeasures should the Japanese trade curbs result in actual damages to South Korean firms. These items are used for producing smartphone displays and semiconductors.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government will provide emergency funds to domestic companies affected by Japan's export restrictions on South Korea's crucial tech industry, Yonhap reported, citing Cho In-dong, an economic policy officer at the city's office.

As part of its new trade restrictions, Japan's trade ministry had said individual applications will be needed for permission to export to South Korea three materials: fluorinated polyimide, hydrogen fluoride and resists.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, the chairman of South Korea's Financial Services Commission was asked if the dispute could affect investments and loans by Japanese institutions.

Lee flew to Japan against this backdrop, with multiple sources saying he was scheduled to sit down with business figures during his stay.

Analysts say the measure won't have a meaningful impact immediately on South Korean companies like Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix Inc., which both have sufficient supplies of the materials for now, given the slowdown in demand for semiconductors.

Japan has expressed hope the controls will prompt South Korea to place the materials under proper control.

On Japan's white list are 27 countries, from Germany to the United Kingdom and the United States.

Tokyo has been frustrated by what it calls a lack of action by Seoul over issues stemming from a top South Korean court ruling last October that ordered another Japanese company, Nippon Steel, to compensate former forced laborers. South Korea, which was added in 2004, would be the first country to be removed.

Abe also said he would not "comment on specific cases" of alleged South Korea sanctions violations.

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