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The big reversal!Korea semiconductor countermeasures began to work, Japan completely soft?

date: 2019-08-08
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Japan and South Korea, which fought hand-to-hand yesterday, have seen a '360-degree reversal'.


Yesterday, the Japanese government decided to exclude South Korea from the trade list, with exports of up to 857 raw materials subject to strict review, and the decision will take effect on January 28.If Japan's resolution goes according to plan, there is no doubt that the Korean semiconductor industry will be seriously affected, and will affect the whole world.As soon as the Japanese side decided to make the decision, South Korea immediately began to fight back, announcing that it would remove Japan from its trade list. Meanwhile, samsung also announced at the same time that it would replace more than 220 kinds of raw materials produced in Japan by purchasing from non-japanese manufacturers.


Perhaps fearing the complete loss of Korea semiconductor, a big customer cluster, Japan's attitude began to soften.Earlier today, the nikkei Asia review reported that the Japanese government had approved the export of the materials for the first time and would announce the approval within the same day, provided there was no risk that the materials would be used for military purposes.


Previously, due to Japan's export restrictions, the south Korean government and samsung executives flew to Japan several times for talks, but all broke up in anger, and the Japanese side took a firm attitude, repeatedly said it would not withdraw the control measures.Faced with no recourse, South Korea decided to stand on its own two feet.


After South Korea also removed Japan from the trade list, the government has set aside 7.8 trillion won (45.4 billion yuan) to invest in more than 100 advanced materials for semiconductor manufacturing.Meanwhile, south Korean semiconductor leader samsung also announced that it will replace more than 220 kinds of semiconductor raw materials imported from Japan with domestic or non-japanese products in the future.


After samsung set the tone for a replacement for high-end semiconductor raw materials, some European companies came to samsung with proposals to import materials controlled by Japan to Europe and then re-export them to samsung.But samsung has flatly refused, and Japan is tightening its industrial chains, making it clear that bypassing imports is not an option.


But apparently, South Korea's desire to completely replace its domestic sources of semiconductor materials and cut trade with Japan is not that simple.After all, the current Japanese in silicon wafers, synthetic semiconductor wafers, light mask, photoresist, target materials, protective coating, lead frame, ceramic plate, plastic plate, TAB(coil automatic joint), COF(film compound crystal), welding wire, packaging materials and other 14 important materials accounted for more than 50% of the share.


That means South Korea will have to find suppliers for its remaining small market share, even if there is no guarantee that alternative materials will be up to scratch.In this regard, industry insiders said that samsung is very strict in the search for semiconductor material replacement manufacturers, the industry expects samsung and other Korean semiconductor manufacturers to replace the material cycle needs as short as 6 months, long as more than a year.


But samsung has so far found a number of non-japanese suppliers of semiconductor raw materials.Take hydrogen fluoride for example, samsung and hynix have begun to test related products from China (such as domestic binhai group and duofuduo, etc.), and pre-production has been carried out in the product line. If the test passes, then Chinese manufacturers are expected to enter the high-end semiconductor industry chain of South Korea.


Perhaps sensing South Korea's determination, Japan's ministry of economy, trade and industry (meti) confirmed that it would soon apply for permission to export some of the first shipments of controlled hydrogen fluoride, photoresist and polyimide fluoride to south Korean companies.Japanese chief cabinet secretary yoshihide suga also approved the export to South Korea at a press conference this morning, saying: 'this shows that [the tightening of controls] is not an embargo, and the controls will not be applied arbitrarily to legitimate transactions, but a license is issued.'


According to the Japanese explanation, this is to show that the purpose of the material export control is not to sanction South Korea, and does not represent an outright embargo.If the materials that South Korea needs to import are not for military use, then Japan can continue to export to South Korea only if they are reviewed.


Japan's decision is clearly a big detente between the two countries and a boon for the global semiconductor industry.In addition to the government's comments, Japanese companies have also expressed support. Showa denko, a major producer of hydrogen fluoride, has submitted an export application and is awaiting approval from the ministry of industry and commerce.


For South Korea, though, it could be a relief for some companies.But domestic semiconductor companies won't stop the program, having already announced plans to replace raw materials exported from Japan.But with Japan's change of heart, the editors say, South Korea's search for an alternative is expected to slow down, lest it irritate Japan further.


After all, Japan currently controls only semiconductor raw materials, not other products such as devices.For semiconductor devices, Japan is still the master absolute advantage, such as painting equipment, electron beam coating/imaging equipment, scribing machine and probe with the global share of more than 90% in Japan, if further stimulus to Japan, South Korea, Japan for these devices also export restrictions, so will have a devastating impact on south Korean semiconductor industry.Perhaps also seeing the change in attitude in Japan today, samsung spokesman said in the press conference this morning that the company is only diversifying its supply chain, not limited to Japanese suppliers, and is not trying to completely replace the raw materials imported from Japan to ease the mood.


In short, a slowdown in Japan's attitude is expected to lead to a slowdown in South Korea and a return to normal production plans for related semiconductors, such as memory and display panels.But after this battle, the editors believe that South Korea will inevitably increase the proportion of non-japanese manufacturers in the purchase of semiconductor raw materials, and South Korea will also increasingly understand the importance of supply chain diversification.For the majority of Chinese semiconductor material manufacturers, this will also be an important opportunity for local enterprises to develop core semiconductor material technology, set international market standards and international brands, and truly enter the high-end semiconductor supply chain in South Korea.(coordinating editor: Andy)


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