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Japan-South Korea rift

Korean chip material makers face 'Death Valley' to counter Japan

Conglomerates dubious about price and quality of domestic materials

Samsung is reliant on Japanese suppliers for the chips that power its products.    © Reuters

SEOUL -- South Korea is funneling resources to realize domestic production of high-tech materials to end its semiconductor industry's dependence on Japan, but closing the technological gap with Japanese suppliers remains a tall order.

The restrictions Japan imposed in July on exports of chipmaking materials bound for South Korea has exposed the reality that the nation's bread-and-butter industry is reliant on Japanese technology. But the country's past attempts to churn out made-in-Korea etching gas have ended in failure, with the challenge of bringing products into commercialization often described as crossing the "Death Valley."

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