A screen shows Samsung DRAM chips as visitors look around a showroom of Samsung Electronics in Seoul on August 2. An official said Monday that disruption of Korean DRAM production could strike global smartphone production hard. Photo: AFP/Jung Yeon-je

If the supply of Korean-made dynamic random access memory chips is suspended for two months, it will disrupt the production of 230 million mobile phones worldwide, a top-level South Korean government official said. DRAM production could be disrupted on account of a historical and trade dispute with Japan.

Kim Hyun-chong, deputy director of the South Korean presidential National Security Office, said Monday in an interview with a Korean radio show, “Japan also relies on us. For example, we have 72.4% of the market share in the global DRAM market. Now we are making 10-nano-level chips, and our competitors in the US and China are 20-30 nano chips. We’re going with a 7-nano process soon.”

“If the supply of DRAMs is stopped for two months, there will be a setback in making 230 million smartphones around the world,” he said. “That could be our response [to the Japanese measure] or a retaliatory measure.”

One nano is one-billionth of a meter thick. In semiconductor production, nano indicates the degree of circuit width. The lower the figure, the more refined the process a chip maker achieved to improve the performance of chips and reduce costs.

Seoul has revealed a counter-offensive card that would involve excluding Japan from its “white list” of countries favored in trade after Tokyo tightened restrictions on exports of key semiconductor materials to Korea and took Korea off its own white list.

A government official told Asia Times early this month that if Japan is excluded from the Korean white list, restrictions on the export of DRAMs to Japan could be tightened.

“The strategic materials related to the white-list countries are similar around the world. They are mostly parts and materials,” he said. “Since DRAM is also a part, DRAM export to Japan could be tightly controlled if Japan is excluded from our white list.”

Still, it remains to be seen whether the South Korean government will weaponize DRAMs.

“I think it would be best if we catch up with Japan or outpace Japan in terms of technology to produce [strategically important] parts, materials and electronics, and fourth industrial revolution-related products,” said Kim.

Regarding the economic impact of Japans’s white-list measure that excluded Korea, Kim said, “The strategic materials that really affect us are a handful.” He added that upon review of the 1,194 strategic materials whose export to non-white-list countries is restricted, “we realized that it wouldn’t affect our economy as much as expected.”

Amid criticism that Washington needs to play a role in resolving trade conflicts between South Korea and Japan, Kim said he was not asking the US to mediate between the two countries.

“If I ask for arbitration from the US, I’m sure there will be a ‘bill’ for their work, so why would I ask for it?” he said.

Asked if Korea would scrap the Korea-Japan General Security of Military Information Agreement, Kim said Seoul would “consider it carefully. ”

Japan and Korea signed GSOMIA on November 11, 2016, to share information on national security matters such as North Korean nuclear and missile tests. Some Korean lawmakers and activists urged the government to sever the agreement after Tokyo tightened export control against Korea,

Kim said that, in the long run, Korea should depend less on trade in economic growth and outpace Japan in terms of technology, stressing that it should secure competent researchers and engineers and give sufficient incentives for acquiring foreign companies in key technology sectors.

Asia Times Financial is now live. Linking accurate news, insightful analysis and local knowledge with the ATF China Bond 50 Index, the world's first benchmark cross sector Chinese Bond Indices. Read ATF now. 

Join the Conversation

8 Comments

  1. Its like you read my thoughts! You seem to understand a lot approximately this, such as you wrote the book in it
    or something. I feel that you just could do with some % to drive the message home a bit, but instead of that, this is magnificent blog.
    An excellent read. I’ll definitely be back.

  2. Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally, it seems as though
    you relied on the video to make your point. You clearly know what youre talking about,
    why waste your intelligence on just posting videos to your
    site when you could be giving us something enlightening to read?

  3. Heya are using WordPress for your site platform? I’m new to
    the blog world but I’m trying to get started and set up my own. Do you need any
    coding knowledge to make your own blog? Any help would be really appreciated!

  4. I don’t know whether it’s just me or if everyone else experiencing issues with your
    blog. It appears as if some of the text on your posts are running
    off the screen. Can somebody else please comment and let me know if
    this is happening to them as well? This may be a problem with my internet browser because I’ve had this happen before.

    Many thanks

  5. Very good blog! Do you have any tips and hints for aspiring writers?
    I’m planning to start my own blog soon but I’m a little
    lost on everything. Would you suggest starting with a
    free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are so
    many choices out there that I’m completely overwhelmed .. Any ideas?
    Many thanks!

  6. I have learn a few good stuff here. Definitely price bookmarking
    for revisiting. I surprise how a lot attempt you place to make this kind of fantastic
    informative web site.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *