Samsung’s Lee travels to Japan amid trade tensions

South Korean vice chairman Jay Y. Lee of Samsung Electronics traveled to Japan on Sunday. File Photo by Yonhap/EPA-EFE

July 8 (UPI) — The vice chairman of South Korean tech giant Samsung Electronics is traveling to Japan as trade tensions escalate between the two countries.

Lee Jae-yong, also known as Jay Y. Lee, could be meeting with Japanese business executives to find a solution to new trade restrictions, South Korean news service Newsis reported Sunday.

Japan’s trade ministry had said individual applications will be needed for permission to export to South Korea three materials: fluorinated polyimide, hydrogen fluoride and resists. The products are used to make semiconductors, flat-screen TVs and smartphones.

Lee’s visit to Japan comes after Masayoshi Son, the chairman of Japanese firm Softbank, visited and met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in. Son advised Moon to make greater investments in artificial intelligence; it is unclear whether trade tensions were raised as an issue.

According to Newsis, Lee is to meet with executives at Japanese firms NTT DoCoMo and KDDI. Lee had also recently met with Son on July 4.

South Korean businesses affected by the new trade restrictions, including Samsung and SK Hynix, had recently dispatched executives to Japan and Taiwan to secure supplies, but they may have only secured a week’s worth of products.

The Japanese government had said last week it would tighten export regulations because Seoul has supported compensation for Korean forced laborers recruited during World War II.

Japan had said the move and other disputes had caused “significant damage to the relationship of mutual trust” between the two countries.

South Korea has supported a joint Korea-Japan compensation plan for the families of deceased wartime laborers.

The Korea Times reported Sunday that Seoul’s presidential Blue House is taking a “diplomatic approach” to resolve trade tensions with Japan, but it cannot rule out “aggressive countermeasures” in a “worst case scenario.”

The Blue House met with top South Korean executives, excluding Samsung’s vice chairman and Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin.

Shin is also on a business trip to Japan, according to the report.


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