South Korea and Japan’s trade dispute might relax the K-REACH rules to a certain extent

South Korea and Japan’s trade dispute might relax the K-REACH rules to a certain extent

A possible trade dispute with Japan may force the South Korean government to relax the rules on new substance registration under K-REACH.

The dispute, which has its roots in the first half of the twentieth century, has seen Japan threaten to restrict the exports of key materials to the country.

If Japanese threats are carried out the South Korean electronics industry could be particularly hard hit by shortages of key substances including:

Fluorinated polyimides – various specialist polymers used in electronics;

Hydrogen fluoride – a highly corrosive substance used in high-purity forms in semiconductor manufacturing. Semiconductors are essential components of circuit boards used in electronics; and

Photo resists – thin layers used in semiconductor manufacture, often supplied as viscous solutions.

Mina Seo, senior deputy director at the MoE’s chemicals policy division, told Chemical Watch that details of how the ministry could streamline the new substances registration to support industry are still being reviewed, as is the timeframe for implementing new rules.

Under K-REACH, new substances used for R&D in annual volumes of 100kg or above require registration.

Ms Seo said that any changes the ministry brings in will still require this, but it will “simplify registration by reducing the requirement for hazardous/risk assessments”. For example, she said, companies will “require fewer test data for registration”.

The principles of K-REACH will not be revised, Ms Seo confirmed. However, the MoE will attempt to support industry’s efforts to prepare for supply shortages of key materials.

In another measure, aimed at helping domestic suppliers replace Japanese imports, the MoE will reduce the period required to process permits for new chemical facilities producing substances for the semiconductor industry from 75 days to 30. The measure was announced by environment minister Myung-rye Cho at a 25 July press conference on, but no date was given for its implementation.

Ms Seo said the government is proceeding on the assumption that Japan will decide to curb exports to South Korea by removing it from its list of trusted trade partners in August.

However, some or all of these temporary measures may be canceled if South Korea is not struck off the list, she added.