Japan exports to Korea still hit despite a thaw

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Japan exports to Korea still hit despite a thaw

Japanese exports continue to suffer as the informal boycott of goods from that country appears to remain in force.

Japanese beer exports to Korea collapsed 99.1 percent in November to 6.96 million yen ($63,000), according to Japanese Finance Ministry data cited by the Japan Times. In October, Japanese beer exports to Korea for the first time in two decades was reported at zero.

Hydrogen fluoride exports fell 93.5 percent year-on-year to 46.93 million yen.

Hydrogen fluoride, also known as etching gas, is one of the three key materials, along with photoresists and fluorinated polyimide, subject to heightened export restrictions by Japan.

The export of these materials needs individual approval by the Japanese government.

Other products affected by the Korean consumer boycott included instant ramen noodles, with exports plummeting 97.9 percent to 910,000 yen, the Japan Times reported.

According to a Japanese Finance Ministry trade report released last week, food and beverage exports to Korea in November, which include beer and instant ramen noodles, shrunk 48.7 percent year-on-year to 2.98 billion yen.

Automotive exports last month fell 88.5 percent to 1.56 billion yen, compared with a 70.7 percent drop reported in October.

Overall Japan’s export to Korea shrunk 17 percent compared to a year ago to 389.7 billion yen. This is a slight improvement from the 23 percent fall reported in October.

The trend is still downward over the longer term.

While Korea isn’t the only market to which Japanese exports declined - they were down 5.7 percent to China and 12.9 percent to the United States - the rate was faster than the country’s overall export decline, which was 7.9 percent last month.

Travel has also been affected. According to Japan National Tourism Organization, the number of Korean tourists to Japan last month totaled 205,000, which is a 65 percent drop from 588,213 the same period a year ago.

Some indications of improved relations have been reported. The two countries held director-level meetings over export controls last week, the first such meeting in over two years, while Korean President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met on Christmas Eve in China.

Japan for the first time since July granted a three-year bulk permit on photoresists prior to the meeting of the two heads of state.

The Korean government saw the granting of photoresists as a sign of “partial progress” but said Japan needs to roll back export restrictions to move forward.

“I view it as insufficient to resolving the fundamental problem of the export controls,” said Korean Trade, Industry and Energy Minister Sung Yun-mo.

During talks with Japan, the Korean government set aside 2.1 trillion won ($1.8 billion) to strengthen the competitiveness of Korean materials, parts and equipment.

BY LEE HO-JEONG [lee.hojeong@joongang.co.kr]

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