Japan says export step not aimed at hurting ties with Seoul

Japan says export step not aimed at hurting ties with Seoul
A member of the Korean Government Employees' Union shout slogans during a rally demanding the abolition of the General Security of Military Information Agreement, or GSOMIA, an intelligence-sharing agreement between South Korea and Japan in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s government spokesman says his country’s downgrading of South Korea’s trade status is not intended as retaliation for disputes over court rulings ordering Japanese companies pay compensation for their treatment of Korean laborers during World War II.

A decision by the Cabinet last Friday to drop South Korea from a list of countries granted preferred trade status became official Wednesday, and will take effect on Aug. 28.

The step adds to Japan’s export controls imposed in July on three key materials for South Korea’s semiconductor industry, triggering outrage there.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Wednesday the measures are about Japan’s national security concerns and not countermeasures for the court rulings.

Japan colonized the Korean Peninsula 1910-1945, and insists all compensation issues were settled under a 1965 agreement normalizing ties.