The Yomiuri ShimbunThe South Korean government’s stance on Japan’s latest export policy is unacceptable, as it has switched the point at issue to continue criticizing our nation. First of all, South Korea must reconsider and modify its own export control system.
South Korea is angrily responding to a measure taken by the Japanese government to tighten regulations on the export of three items to that country, as there are concerns that such exports could be diverted for military purposes. Japan also intends to remove South Korea from the list of nations with “white country” status, or those treated preferentially through simplified procedures for exports.
Japan regards the laxity of South Korea’s export control as a problem. There are only a small number of personnel in charge of that task in South Korea, less than half of the number in Japan, according to Japanese government officials. South Korea’s catch-all controls — restrictions on the export of materials used to produce conventional weapons — are not satisfactory either.
There have been no talks between senior officials of the Japanese and South Korean authorities since the inauguration of South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s administration in 2017. As long as there is anxiety about illegal exports from South Korea, Japan’s tightening of export procedures is unavoidable.
Moon has insisted that the blame must unilaterally fall on Japan, saying, “I warn that this could damage the Japanese economy more.” It is regrettable that the South Korean president has arbitrarily described the Japanese step as politically and economically motivated, without even taking any action to improve the situation.
Carefully explain cases
Major nations have continued to keep a close eye on the export of strategic goods that could be used to produce weapons, even if they are intended for civilian purposes. Since 2015, Japan has publicized nine cases of unlawful exports subjected to administrative punishment by the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry.
These cases include one in which a Hyogo Prefecture-based company exported more than 3,500 kilograms of carbon fiber to China via South Korea without permission.
Meanwhile, the South Korean government said it has tracked down as many as 156 cases in which strategic goods were illegally exported between 2015 and March 2019. These cases included the export of chemical materials and other goods to Iran and Syria, both states that are friendly with North Korea.
The South Korean government uses these results as a basis to assert that its export controls have been properly conducted. In consideration of South Korea’s lax export management, however, it is natural to regard the results as an increase in the total number of unlawful exports from that nation.
To begin with, the European Union has not designated South Korea a holder of white-nation status. The EU inspects exports to South Korea as rigorously as it does other Asian countries.
South Korea’s assertion that the Japanese measure is unfair is hard to understand, despite our nation merely seeking to act in step with the EU.
A general council meeting of the World Trade Organization will open next week, and Japan’s latest move is expected to be discussed there. Japan needs to insist on the legitimacy of its measure.
Despite saying it has confirmed inappropriate cases involving the three items for which export procedures have been tightened, the Japanese government has not revealed the details. To make its assertion more persuasive, the government should try to offer careful explanations, insofar as doing so would not hinder its export examinations.