Korean President warns of possible war with Japan

'Unprecedented emergency' says the South Korean premier.

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- Aishwarya Dakhore

Seoul: South Korean President Moon Jae-in, on Wednesday, gave out a warning of a battle with Japan over its export controls while addressing the top business leaders. He was talking in Seoul while he called the current situation about the stacks an 'unprecedented emergency.' The people whom this clue was addressed to were executives from companies like Samsung Electronics Co., SK Group, Hyundai Motor Co. and Lotte Group. He expressed concern about his belief that Japan is targeting South Korea’s economy for political gains. 

“Our government is forming a response system demanding Japan to withdraw its unfair export limit measures with a sense of urgency,” Moon said. This reaction by Moon has come after Japan's move made last week wherein it imposed curbs on highly specialized products needed to make semiconductors and computer displays. There are also high chances that Japan would remove it from its list of trusted buyers.

The countries have a history of dispute from a Seoul court ruling last year ordering Japanese companies to pay compensation for their use of forced labor during Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945. Japan maintains that the compensation for forced labor was fully settled in a 1965 pact that restored diplomatic ties. Thus, both countries have been on different pages from last year.

The dispute, however, has now moved into the economic arena affecting the trading partnerships on a global level. The current situation indicates that the tensions between the major trading partners and US allies could spiral out of control. Moon, on Wednesday, proposed "active support" from the government's end for companies to diversify importers and expand local production. He also added that the export curbs would be reflected in an upcoming extra budget bill proposal within the National Assembly.

Moon has seen the economy stumble under his watch while the jobless rate has hit levels it hasn’t seen in about a decade. While the stricter checks that took effect Thursday don't amount to a ban, exporters would be required to obtain a separate licence each time they want to sell the materials to South Korea, causing delays. South Korea is taking is planning to take its case over the expert measures to the World Trade Organization. Its courts have ruled since late 2018 said the victims of forced labor weren’t compensated for their emotional pain and suffering.

While South Korea generated a response to the past year's verdict, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a talk show on Sunday that “With regards to the wartime-laborers issues, it has become clear that South Korea does not abide by international commitments. It is natural to assume that it also fails to keep promises on export control.” The new restrictions could potentially hurt the profits of South Korean firms that rely on Japanese suppliers, such as Samsung Electronics and LG Display Co.

Aishwarya Dakhore is an Intern with Indie Journal.