One year ago today, Japan announced that it would impose export restrictions on three key display materials vital to South Korea's tech industry.
Tokyo turned the blame to Seoul, saying South Korea did not manage these sensitive materials that can be used for military purposes effectively.
But many saw Tokyo's actions as a retaliation against a South Korean top court's ruling that Japanese firms would have to compensate Korean victims for wartime forced labor.
Seoul filed the complaint with the WTO in September, suspended the move in November in efforts for dialogue, but reopened the case last month as Japan did not respond to Seoul's call for removing the restrictions.
The WTO is to decide later this month whether to set up a panel.
For a breakdown on the Seoul-Tokyo trade spat, Professor Yang Jun-sok from the Catholic University of Korea is joining us in the studio.
Welcome to the program.
Thanks for having me.
First off, can you please give us a little background on how the WTO Dispute Settlement Body acts or operates? What kind of complaints are brought to this body, and to what extent can they rule?
Seoul and Tokyo are no longer on each other's lists of trusted trading partners. And now, Seoul has decided to resume its lawsuit at the WTO. Tensions are further escalating between the two sides how do you see things unfolding?
Seoul decided to suspend the suit last November when the two sides began talks on the forced labor issue and the trade restrictions. But it seems the talks have not been so effective. What's your view?
Japan still claims that its export curbs are reasonable because South Korea did not manage these sensitive materials well. But we all know that the wartime forced labor issue is at the very base of this trade spat. Will the WTO's Dispute Settlement Body be able to bring the two nations together ahead of a historical resolution?
Is COVID-19 having an impact on this trade dispute - be it the timeline of the litigation, or a ripple effect from the pandemic impacting the global economy?
Generally, a ruling from the WTO panel takes a couple years how do you foresee the litigation proceeding? Is there a certain expected course or outcome for both countries?
What happens to trade relations between South Korea and Japan while the litigation is ongoing?
Thank you for your insights today professor, we really appreciate it.