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Should S. Korea seek indigenous production of key materials to reduce its dependence on Japan? Updated: 2019-07-12 04:14:13 KST

South Korea produced its first home-grown fluorinated polyimides nearly 15 years ago.
Fluorinated polyimides, used for making foldable displays in Samsung and LG smartphones, is one of the three key materials being targeted by Japan's export curbs.
However, the lack of investment in the materials industry, regulations and heavy reliance on Japan have hindered efforts to produce them indigenously.
Six out of 10 local SMEs say they won't be able to last 6 months without Japanese imports, and almost half of them have no countermeasures of any kind.
Finding a way to become self-sufficient in the supply of these materials is the ideal solution, but the localization process won't be completed overnight.

"It will take around 5 years to develop our own materials. That's even when we have the fundamental base for production. With no background research and resources, it will at least take 10 years."

Some experts have pointed out that localization is not the answer, given the large amount of required investment and resources, as well as South Korea's small footprint in the global market.
South Korea accounts for a paltry 4 percent share of the global semiconductor equipment market, far short of the government's 13 percent goal.

"We cannot produce and localize everything because of financial and human resource limitations. We should work on what we can, and bring in what we cannot make ourselves from other countries. That's the international division of labor."

Instead, South Korea should play to its strengths and further develop its advanced semiconductor technology.
While the country should continue with its localization efforts in the long run, experts say a diplomatic solution with Japan must be arrived at first.
Given the two countries' intricate economic ties, public pressure is growing in South Korea and Japan to reach a speedy resolution to the trade conflict before it can manifest itself in long-term damage.
KIM Da-mi, Arirang News.
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