Japan and South Korea Trade Fight Could Hurt Memory Supply

RAM installed in a motherboard. Credit: ShutterstockRAM installed in a motherboard. Credit: Shutterstock

New restriction in Japan on exports to South Korea could threaten the global supply of memory chips worldwide, Nikkei reports

Starting Thursday, July 4, suppliers in Japan of three chemicals used in the semiconductor industry must get permission from the government before exporting them to South Korea. Reviews, the report claims, can take about three months, which could cause an issue, as the chipmakers in South Korea usually only have one or two month's worth of materials ready.

An anonymous source at SK Hynix told Nikkei that the chipmaker doesn't have three months of supplies on hand, and it may even have to halt production if it has to wait too long for materials it usually imports from Japan.

Samsung only told Nikkei that it was keeping an eye on the situation.

South Korean manufacturers control 70 percent of the DRAM market and 50 percent for NAND flash memory, the report claims. The memory goes into smartphones, laptops and even televisions.

Japan claims a degenerating relationship with Korea is the reason these controls have been put in place. These may be a reference to a dispute over South Koreans who were forced to perform labor for Japanese companies during World War II and whether compensation will be provided.