Japanese firms seek ways to bypass restrictions

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Japanese firms seek ways to bypass restrictions

Japanese chip material companies are considering opening overseas production facilities to bypass the Japanese government’s tightened export restrictions.

These companies are expected to expand production in Korea and China, while Korean chipmakers are looking to increase orders from Taiwanese and European suppliers.

Japanese business journal Nikkei Asian Review reported Friday that “Morita Chemical Industries will begin producing ultrapure hydrogen fluoride in China via a joint venture this year, with an eye toward supplying it to Chinese chipmakers and Samsung fabrication facilities in the country.

“It will also ship the gas to South Korea if demand warrants.”

Morita was Korea’s supplier of etching gas at 99.9999999999 percent purity, referred to in the industry as 12N. The etching gas was created by processing Chinese hydrogen fluoride at 99.9 percent purity to make an extremely high-purity version. With the Japanese government tightening export restrictions, the company would now be sourcing and producing the material in China.

Osaka-based Japanese 12N etching gas manufacturer Stella Chemifa is considering supplying produce from its Singapore factory to Korea. Tokyo Ohka Kogyo (TOK) is preparing to expand production of EUV photoresists in Korea. The company has a plant in Incheon.

On the other end, Korean companies are pushing to diversify chip material suppliers. Before the recent measures, Japanese manufacturers made the majority of high-tech chip materials used in Korea.

Taiwanese daily the Taipei Times reported Thursday that semiconductor machinery maker Hiwin Technologies has seen a rise in orders from Korean chip companies recently.

The media outlet quoted Hiwin Group Chairman Eric Chuo as saying “In a bid to seek a second supplier, Korean semiconductor companies have turned to us and placed orders for automation equipment,” during an investors’ conference.

Korean companies are reportedly searching for ways to collaborate with companies in Russia and China for hydrogen fluoride, and U.S.-based Corning for mask blanks. SK Materials, a chip material maker under SK Group, is pushing development to produce its own high-purity hydrogen fluoride samples by the year’s end.

Korean companies’ drive to create their own materials is also starting to concern Japanese industry watchers. Aoyama Gakuin University Professor Osada Takahito said in a Toyo Keizai column on Thursday that the Japanese government’s biggest fault was instilling in Korea a perception that localizing material and parts was an urgent job.

BY KIM CHANG-WOO [song.kyoungson@joongang.co.kr]
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