The South Korean government announced on Nov. 22 that it would conditionally extend the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) and temporarily stop its WTO litigation regarding Japan’s export curbs that continued for 144 days. This means the South Korean government will end the agreement unless the curbs are relaxed.
Since July this year, the Japanese government has applied individual permission instead of comprehensive permission to hydrogen fluoride, fluorine polyimide and photoresist exported to South Korea. The measure is being regarded as an embargo as the total number of export permits stood at eight until the end of last month. The South Korean government brought the case to the WTO in September, claiming that the measure was discriminatory and arbitrary, and the two governments’ negotiations in October and this month were unsuccessful.
Japan’s export curbs backfired in fact. For example, South Korea’s trade deficit with Japan for the first 10 months of this year totaled US$16,366 million, down 20.6 percent from a year ago and the smallest since 2003. This year as a whole, the deficit is expected to be less than US$20 billion for the first time in 16 years.
After the South Korean government’s announcement on Nov. 22, the Japanese government said that the GSOMIA and its export restrictions have nothing to do with each other. Under the circumstances, their negotiations are likely to face a bumpy road ahead.