The pain of the supply chain: South Korean chipmakers seek to circumvent Japanese export restrictions

2020-08-01 15:15:07 0 Comment 227 views

Said Park Zhijian, president of Korea Semiconductor and Display Technology Association. Samsung and SK Hynix are looking to buy more materials from co

Park Jijian, president of the Korea Semiconductor and Display Technology Association, said that Samsung and SK Hynix are looking to buy more materials from countries such as China, including looking for companies outside Japan that may have excess inventory.

The pain of the supply chain: South Korean chipmakers seek to circumvent Japanese export restrictions

Tencent Technology News July 9 news, according to foreign media reports, chip industry executives said , South Korea’s chip system in the sudden escalation of bilateral diplomatic disputesManufacturers and Japanese chemical suppliers are doing their best to circumvent Japan’s high-tech material export restrictions on South Korea.

Japan said last week that it would stop preferential treatment of three high-tech materials to South Korea and require exporters to obtain a permit every time they want to ship. This process takes about 90 days.

These restrictions apply to three dominant materials in Japan: photoresist (used to transfer circuit patterns to semiconductor wafers), hydrogen fluoride (used as an etching gas in the chip manufacturing process), and fluorine Polyimide (for smart phone screens).

Park Jea-guan, president of the Korea Semiconductor and Display Technology Association (KSSDT), said that Samsung and SK Hynix are seeking to purchase more materials from countries such as China. He added that this includes looking for companies outside of Japan that may have excess inventory.

SK Securities analyst Kim Young-woo said that chip manufacturers have dispatched sales teams to suppliers’ factories or joint ventures operating outside Japan to ensure sufficient inventory.

Samsung said that the company is reviewing some measures to minimize the impact of Japan’s export restrictions. Samsung executives confirmed that Samsung’s vice chairman Jay Y. Lee had traveled to Tokyo on Sunday to discuss relevant matters with local business leaders. The official declined to provide more details about what measures the tech giant is taking. SK Hynix declined to comment.

Although it is not clear to what extent Japan can slow down the export approval process or whether it will switch to a ban, South Korean chipmakers worry that this situation may turn into a full-blown crisis.

A Korean coreAn insider from the film manufacturer said: “These materials are not things that we can find from other suppliers and quickly buy them. Even if we find alternatives outside of Japan, we must also conduct tests to ensure that the quality is good enough to be able to Produce chips in high yields.” Due to the sensitivity of the matter, the source declined to be named.

For two of these materials, storage is not a viable option, because hydrogen fluoride is highly toxic and the photoresist quickly degrades.

South Korean chipmakers rely on Japan for most of their materials, even though they also import hydrogen fluoride from China. Experts say they have a four-month inventory of some materials.

Suppliers’ efforts

This dispute stems from Japan’s disappointment with South Korea’s alleged lack of action. The South Korean court made a decision in October last year. A ruling, toAsk Nippon Steel to compensate the workers of World War II. However, Japan stated that when the two countries resumed diplomatic relations in 1965, the labor issue had been completely resolved.

The quarrel also showed no signs of easing. Japan last week threatened to remove South Korea from the “white list” of countries with the lowest trade restrictions. These restrictions may lead to more widespread use of weapons. Production items are restricted.

Among Japanese suppliers, JSR believes that it can supply photoresist from its Belgian factory. Tokyo Ohka Kogyo Co., Ltd. has its own factory in South Korea and can "temporarily" provide photoresist to Korean customers. But the factory must purchase materials from Japan to produce photoresist, so once the existing inventory is exhausted, export restrictions will slow down the supply.

Stella Chemifa Corp has a joint venture factory in South Korea.To deliver hydrogen fluoride to customers in South Korea, the company declined to comment on whether the joint venture plant can meet customer needs. The company estimates that it controls up to 70% of the high-purity hydrogen fluoride market.

Japanese media said that Japan produces about 90% of hydrogen fluoride. According to a government report, Japan produces approximately 90% of photoresist. South Korean industry data show that in the first five months of this year, South Korea spent US$144 million to import these three materials from Japan.

The restriction on photoresist only applies to materials used in the production of chips based on an advanced technology called extreme ultraviolet lithography or EUV lithography. But analysts said this may hinder Samsung's efforts to use this technology to catch up with rival TSMC.

South Korea plans to invest in domestic industries and develop these materials on its own, but there is no simple alternative to Japanese supplies in the short term.

Shigeki O, analyst at Nomura SecuritiesZaki said: "For these technical materials, you need to accumulate know-how in choosing raw materials, combining them into suitable mixtures, controlling temperature, etc., but now most of the technical know-how is hidden in a black box." (Tencent Technology Review/Golden Deer)