Two top South Korean economic policymakers met with business leaders Sunday to discuss ways to cope with Japan's export restrictions, Cheong Wa Dae has confirmed.
Economy and Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki and Kim Sang-jo, chief of staff to President Moon Jae-in for policy, had consultations with representatives from "major companies on the uncertainty over external economic conditions," according to Cheong Wa Dae spokesperson, Ko Min-jung.
They agreed to "communicate actively and closely" with each other going forward, she added.
She stopped short of revealing the venue and the names of the companies, as well as the number of participants.
Another Cheong Wa Dae official said the meeting was part of efforts to collect opinions from the business circle on Japan's control on exports to South Korea of high-tech materials.
A government source said Hong and Kim had pushed for a group meeting with the heads of the five biggest conglomerates based in Seoul: Samsung, Hyundai, LG, SK and Lotte.
Hyundai Motor Co. Executive Vice Chairman Chung Euisun, SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won and LG Group Chairman Koo Kwang-mo attended the meeting, while Samsung Electronics Co. Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong and Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin were absent due to pre-scheduled overseas trips, the source added.
South Korean media released a number of reports on the session before and after it. But Cheong Wa Dae maintained a cautious stance, releasing no detailed information.
The government is apparently focusing on exploring a sophisticated, strategic response to Japan's use of exports as a means of retaliation over the wartime forced labor issue.
An informed source said it's important to keep hold of the "last card" and that making all of the government's plans public could be counterproductive.
This is one reason Moon has refrained from making remarks on the matter in public, as he places top priority on protecting South Korean firms and the national interest, the source said.
Last week, Japan said it would tighten regulations on exports of three materials used in chips and smartphone displays to Korea amid a widening dispute over Koreans who were forced to work for Japanese companies during World War II.
South Korean chipmakers such as Samsung Electronics and SK hynix Inc. will have difficulties finding alternative supply sources, as Japan accounts for 70 to 90 percent of the production of the three materials.
Cheong Wa Dae said it would actively seek diplomatic countermeasures, including complaining to the World Trade Organization (WTO) against the "retaliatory" export limits on the high-tech materials.
The government is preparing to file a complaint with the WTO over Japan's restrictions on exports to Seoul of fluorine polyimide, photoresist and etching gas. Fluorine polyimide is used to make flexible organic light-emitting diode displays, and photoresist is a thin layer used to transfer a circuit pattern to a semiconductor substrate. Etching gas is needed in the semiconductor fabrication process.
Separately, President Moon Jae-in is considering meeting with the leaders of the country's top 30 conglomerates at Cheong Wa Dae on Wednesday to share views on Japan's export limits. (Yonhap)