Korea's Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee told reporters on Wednesday that Seoul has decided to file a complaint to the WTO over Japan's trade curbs on three key materials,which are essential to producing semiconductors and display panels.
The complaint will be officially initiated as Seoul handed in its request letter for consultations with the Embassy of Japan in Geneva and the WTO to seek the end of the export restrictions.
Japan's move is widely seen as a retaliation against Korea's Supreme Court rulings ordering Japanese firms to compensate Korean victims who were forced into working for them during Japan's 1910-45 brutal colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.
As such, Yoo added Japan's curbs are discriminatory and motivated by political reasons.
"Japan announced its export curbs without any prior notice and executed the curbs just three days after the announcement. It has ignored procedural justification, showing no consideration for its neighboring country."
Seoul accused Tokyo of committing three major violations of WTO rules.
Frist, the WTO's obligation to not discriminate, second, changing export procedures for three materials that used to be traded freely with a general permit so that now they require individual permits.
And lastly, Seoul claims that Tokyo's export curbs have taken advantage of trade in retaliation over political issues.
While Yoo said South Korea wishes to resolve the issue through bilateral talks, if consultations with the Japanese embassy in Geneva and the WTO do not resolve the issue within next two months, Seoul will take the case to the WTO panel ruling.
However, that could take more than two years to be resolved legally.
Meanwhile, after South Korea's press briefing, a Japanese government official told reporters that Japan's measures do not violate any WTO rule.
According to Japan's Kyodo news agency on Wednesday, the official said the move was merely a change in export regulations for safety purposes, and not an entire ban on exports.
Kim Jae-hee, Arirang News.