South Korea on Wednesday followed through with plans to drop Japan from a list of countries receiving fast-track approvals in trade, a reaction to a similar move by Tokyo to downgrade Seoul's trade status amid a tense diplomatic dispute.South Korea' trade ministry said Japan's removal from a 29-member "white list" of nations enjoying minimum trade restrictions went into effect as Seoul rearranged its export control system covering hundreds of sensitive materials that can be used for both civilian and military purposes.
The change comes a week after South Korea initiated a complaint to the World Trade Organization over a separate Japanese move to tighten export controls on key chemicals South Korean companies use to manufacture semiconductors and displays.
Seoul has accused Tokyo of weaponizing trade to retaliate against South Korean court rulings calling for Japanese companies to offer reparations to South Koreans forced into labor during World War II. Tokyo's measures struck a nerve in South Korea, where many still harbor resentment over Japan's brutal colonial rule from 1910 to 1945.
According to South Korean trade ministry, with the new measures in effect it can now take up to 15 days for South Korean companies to gain approvals to export sensitive materials to Japan, compared to the five days or less it took under a simpler inspection process provided for favored trade partners.