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Japan-South Korea rift

South Korea to lodge WTO complaint over Japan's export curbs

Rift widens as Seoul calls Tokyo 'politically motivated' and 'discriminatory'

Japan is making it more difficult for South Korea's big chipmaking industry to get its hands on key precursor materials.

SEOUL (Reuters) -- South Korea's trade minister said the country plans to file a complaint over Japan's tighter export controls at the World Trade Organization on Wednesday, accusing Tokyo of being "politically motivated" and "discriminatory".

Early in July, Japan imposed tighter controls on exports of three materials to South Korea used to make smartphone chips or displays following a diplomatic row over compensation for forced labourers during Japan's occupation of Korea during the World War Two.

As the first step of WTO dispute settlement, South Korea will request consultations with Japan and seek the latter's withdrawal of the export curbs. If the consultations do not resolve the issues, South Korea will request a WTO panel ruling on the cases, Trade Minister Yoo Myung-Hee told a briefing.

Bilateral relations deteriorated after South Korea's Supreme Court last year ordered two Japanese companies to compensate the wartime workers in a ruling that Tokyo said violated international law. Japan believes the issue of compensation was settled under a 1965 treaty.

Yoo said South Korean firms are "faced with serious damage" due to uncertainties over shipments of the three materials - fluorinated polyimides, photoresists and hydrogen fluoride.

Japan now requires exporters to seek permission each time they want to ship three materials, which takes up to 90 days. Previously, it only took one or two weeks to have products shipped, she said.

Only three shipments have been approved since Tokyo took action on July 4, she said.

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