Korean firm to increase photoresists supply

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Korean firm to increase photoresists supply

A Korean company plans to expand its production of a key component for producing semiconductors and displays, Korean trade officials announced Wednesday, continuing the country’s campaign to lower its dependency on Japanese imports of the materials amid recent trade tensions.

The Korean Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy announced on Wednesday that Dongjin Semichem, a local company specializing in materials for semiconductors and displays, submitted plans to expand its photoresists production plant in the first quarter of this year.

Japan started restricting exports of three key chemicals - photoresists, hydrogen fluoride and fluorine polyimide - essential to making semiconductors and displays last summer. Semiconductors and displays are two of Korea’s leading exports.

Dongjin Semichem is the first company in the country to successfully develop and manufacture ArF photoresists, which are at a level of purity below that of extreme ultraviolet (EUV) photoresists.

Photoresists play a significant role in etching patterns on wafers used on semiconductors. Higher-purity etching gases are able to produce more complicated and higher-quality semiconductors.

The newly-expanded production line is expected to be completed a year from now.

The government expects locally-produced photoresists to more than double once the expanded plant goes into operation.

Korea until now has been heavily dependent on imports from Japan.

Japan accounted for 92 percent of all photoresists imports during the first six months of 2019, according to the Korea International Trade Association. That share fell to 85 percent between July and November after Japan began restricting its exports of photoresists and through the diversification of the supply chain including imports from Belgium, the United States and Germany.

Dongjin Semichem was also supplying photoresists to major Korean semiconductor manufacturers - Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix - since Japan’s tighter controls went into effect in July.

The Korean company is the latest contributor to Korea’s effort to lower its dependency on Japanese imports.

Soulbrain, a company based in Gyeonggi, announced earlier this month it successfully developed the etching gas with a 12-nine or 12N purity. And the Korean government announced it has attracted global chemical company DuPont, which plans to invest $28 million in building a photoresists development and production plant in Cheonan, South Chungcheong.

The Korean government plans to inject 23 billion won ($20 million) into the research and development of photoresists until 2021.

“Since Japan’s export restriction in July last year, the government and the private sector have been securing the stable supply of the three key materials including photoresists,” said Cheong Seung-il, Korea’s vice minister of trade, industry and energy. “We expect further strengthening of local supplies of photoresists.”

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