President Moon Jae In and executives of some 30 leading South Korean companies agreed Wednesday to cooperate closely to overcome a crisis prompted by Japan's tightened rules on semiconductor-related exports to its neighbor, his office said.
The stricter regulation -- introduced after what Tokyo perceived as Seoul's failure to address a months-long row over compensation for wartime labor -- could hit South Korean chipmakers and potentially disrupt global supply chains.
"The executives agreed (with Moon) on the need for both short-term and long-term measures regarding Japan's export curbs...while stressing cooperation between the government and companies, should the situation remain unchanged," presidential spokeswoman Ko Min Jung told reporters after their meeting.
The importance of reducing reliance on imported materials was also discussed at the meeting, and Moon pledged the government's full support for that, Ko added.
Since last Thursday, exporters have been required to obtain a license for each deal before shipping to South Korea three materials needed to produce semiconductors and display panels for smartphones and TVs, whereas they had been given bulk licenses before.
In his opening remarks at Wednesday's meeting, Moon charged the trade curbs were adopted by the Japanese government for political purposes, and that they have been linked to U.N. sanctions against North Korea without basis.
"It is never appropriate to use economic retaliation for political purposes and to make groundless comments," Moon said.
"Our government is strongly determined to make Japan withdraw its unfair export tightening, while at the same time preparing measures" to cope with the move, he added.
Earlier this week, Moon said Seoul would have no choice but to take countermeasures if the export curbs cause "actual damage" to South Korean companies.
In adopting more stringent rules, Japan cited "significantly undermined" trust between the countries, and cases where certain sensitive items were exported to South Korea "with inadequate management by companies."
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, during a TV show on Sunday, indicated a connection to his country's move with the sanctions imposed on North Korea over its nuclear weapon and missile development programs.
South Korea has denied the possibility that a key material used in chipmaking may have made its way to North Korea, despite U.N. sanctions, after it was imported from Japan.
The companies invited to Wednesday's talks at the presidential office included conglomerates such as Samsung Group, SK Group, LG Group and Lotte Group. A total of 34 executives attended, according to the office.
The meeting was aimed at getting their views on recent economic conditions and the effects of Japan's tightened export rules.
Also Wednesday, a group of economists and industry officials held a meeting in Seoul to assess the impact the latest regulation would have on South Korea's economy.
"If the restrictions last longer than three months, the overall manufacturing process will be affected, as replacing the materials with domestic ones remains impossible," the Federation of Korean Industries, the country's most influential business lobby, said in a statement after the meeting.
Economists who attended the meeting agreed that the South Korean government should be careful about taking any retaliatory measures because they could further damage the South Korean economy.
The two countries are making arrangements for a meeting in Tokyo on Friday, at which South Korea plans to demand the withdrawal of the curbs while asking Japan about the reasons behind their introduction, according to South Korean Trade, Industry and Energy Minister Sung Yun Mo.
Relations between the countries have sunk to their lowest in years since a ruling by South Korea's top court last autumn ordered Japanese firms to compensate groups of South Koreans over forced labor during World War II, when the Korean Peninsula was under Japanese colonial rule.