Japan, South Korea hold export talks, seek dispute solution

Japan’s director general for Trade Control Department Yoichi Iida shakes hands with South Korea’s director general for International Trade Policy Lee Ho-hyeon at the start of their senior-level talks in Tokyo on Monday, December 16, 2019. (Kyodo via Reuters)
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Updated 16 December 2019

Japan, South Korea hold export talks, seek dispute solution

  • Japan in July tightened trade controls on South Korea materials used in high-tech products
  • Tokyo also downgraded Seoul a month later from a list of preferential trade partners

TOKYO: Senior officials from Japan and South Korea were holding talks Monday on high-tech exports for the first time since Tokyo tightened controls on South Korean semiconductor parts earlier this year.
The director-general level meeting was taking place in Tokyo between Yoichi Iida of Japan’s Trade Control Department and his South Korean counterpart, Lee Ho-hyeon. The two officials shook hands at the beginning of the talks, though they made no opening remarks to the media.
A meeting of this level had not been held in more than three years.
Japan in July tightened trade controls on South Korea materials used in smartphones, television screens and other high-tech products, citing national security concerns. Japan also downgraded South Korea a month later from a list of preferential trade partners.
South Korea has demanded Japan reverse the measures, saying Tokyo has weaponized export controls in retaliation for South Korean court rulings demanding Japanese companies pay compensation to former Korean laborers over their treatment during Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula. Tokyo has pressed Seoul to stick with a 1965 agreement in resolving their dispute over wartime Korean laborers, criticizing the court decisions a violation to international law.
Japan’s trade curbs against South Korea have led to subsequent retaliatory measures that spilled into the area of national security, with Seoul threatening to abandon a key military intelligence sharing pact with Tokyo.
The pact was saved just hours before its expiration in November, following Washington’s repeated pressure and with Tokyo agreeing to resume export control talks requested by Seoul.
Monday’s talks come a week ahead of a planned summit between the two countries and China.
Japanese and South Korean foreign ministers, Toshimitsu Motegi and Kan Geun-wha, both attending the Asia-Europe Meeting in Madrid, Spain, talked briefly and welcomed their trade officials’ meeting in Tokyo, Japanese officials said. The two sides also agreed to cooperate closely on threats from North Korea and to achieve next week’s summit.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said that Japan’s export control measures are part of the country’s international responsibility and that “they are not something that we decide by negotiating with a trade partner.”
“Our policy has been consistent and there is no change to our position,” Suga said, referring to Japan’s position on the wartime compensation issue. “We urge South Korea to act wisely.”
South Korean national assembly speaker Moon Hee-san is seeking to set up a compensation fund for the Korean wartime laborers with an option that allows Japanese companies to chip in donations as a compromise.

At Davos, innovative products point to a sustainable future

Updated 24 January 2020

At Davos, innovative products point to a sustainable future

  • A single tree that to bear 40 different types of apple

DAVOS: The World Economic Forum is not all about the fourth industrial revolution or the rise of AI.

You can also find all manner of strange and intriguing products on display from biodegradable plastic made from algae to wallpaper made from recycled corn husks.

One stand titled “How do you design a tree?” is part of a conservation effort where a single tree is designed to bear 40 different types of apple.

Another stand displays colored seaweed on a rack, showing how clothes can be dyed in a sustainable, non-chemically corrosive manner.

Propped along a large wall is Fernando Laposse’s wallpaper made of variations of purple corn husks that are reinforced with recycled cardboard and cork to create wallpaper and furniture. The husks come from corn that needs very little water and can be grown in the desert, which makes it all the more sustainable.

“This initiative helps the local economy as it brings in jobs and a resurgence of crafts and food traditions while also ensuring sustainability,” Laposse said.

Another display shows a machine that extracts pellets from a mixture of algae and starch and is used to create a thread that is the base of 3D printing. These sustainable, biodegradable plastics made from algae are being experimented with in different regions.

With the rise of deep fakes — a branch of synthetic media in which a person in an existing image or video is replaced with someone else’s likeness — another stand delivers a warning on the looming dangers of unregulated software.

The Davos forum prides itself on its sustainability, and key topics have included climate, mobility, energy and the circular economy. Everything is recyclable, and participants must download an application in order to keep up with the program and any changes — a move to cut down on paper waste.