US-based chemical firm Dupont on Jan. 9 announced its plan to invest $28 million in South Korea to build a production line for photoresist, which can potentially help Asia’s No. 4 economy reduce its dependence of the key industrial material on Japan amid their trade spat.
Under the project, Rohm and Hass Electronic Materials Korea Ltd., the South Korean unit of Dupont, will build a new production line in Cheonan, 92 kilometers south of Seoul, and test facilities for extreme ultraviolet photoresist used in the production of chips.
The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2021, and also includes the new production line for chemical mechanical planarization pads, also used in the chip industry.
DuPont Electronics & Imaging`s new liquid polyimide plant in Cheonan, South Chungcheong Province (DuPont)
Dupont’s investment is significant as South Korea, a memory chip powerhouse, has been seeking to ease its dependence on Japan for key materials used in the process of making chips as the two Asian countries have been in a monthslong trade spat.
As Japan currently dominates the global market for EUV photoresist, the latest investment will provide South Korea with a stable supply of the material, an official from its trade ministry said.
In July, Japan imposed restrictions on exports to Seoul of three key industrial materials critical for South Korea‘s chip and display industries, including photoresist. Tokyo later also removed Seoul from its list of trusted trading partners on ambiguous grounds.
Japan’s export curbs have not yet had a significant impact on South Korea‘s economy, but the tensions have still caused major uncertainty for tech giants here, as chips take up roughly 15 percent of the country’s exports.
South Korea believes Japan's actions were politically motivated and came in response to the country’s court rulings ordering Japanese firms to provide compensation for victims of forced labor during Japan‘s 1910-45 colonial rule.
Late last month, Tokyo partially lifted curbs on exports to South Korea of photoresist in an apparent goodwill gesture ahead of their December summit, which ended with no notable progress. Seoul nevertheless has been reaching out to global companies to secure a stable supply of vital materials.
By Park Ga-young and newswires (firstname.lastname@example.org)