Japan Digest #278

Japan-Korea GSOMIA Saved For Now


The Korean Government announced on November 22 to freeze its prior decision of not renewing the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) military intelligence-sharing agreement with Japan. 

The decision was announced on the brink of its scheduled expiration of November 23

The Korean side emphasized that the freeze is temporary, and if the Japanese side would not change its export control policy against Korea, the Korean Government would cancel the agreement immediately. 

The U.S. Administration had been actively working on President Moon Jae-in and his administration to change their mind to keep GSOMIA intact.

In the meantime, high ranking officials of Japan’s METI had been in frequent contact with their Korean counterparts behind the scene to seek for realistic avenues to loosen Japan’s present export control against Korea, media reported. 

But, even after the Korean decision to freeze its original decision, the two administrations are publicly claiming against each other that the other party made a wrong understanding of mutual positions. 

The media suggested that the Moon Jae-in’s administration might have somewhat miscalculated the U.S. position, which had strongly opposed losing the GSOMIA between the two most important allies in the Asia-Pacific region. 


How this trinational relationship will play out in the face of trade and national security is yet to be seen.  

Abe Marked The Longest Tenure As Prime Minister


PM Abe broke the record of the longest serving Prime Minister on November 20 by marking the 2,887th day of leading the nation.

Before Abe, the record holder was Taro Katsura, who served as PM in early 1900’s.

PM Abe’s third term as President of the Liberal Democratic Party ends in the end of September 2021, until when he can assume the Prime Minister’s position, because the LDP keeps the majority of the House of Representatives, and the next lower house election won’t happen until October 2021 as long as PM Abe would not dissolve the house before that. 

In 2017, considering the high popularity of Abe,  the party leaders decided to extend the term limit of the party presidency to three consecutive terms (3 years per term). 

Although Abe clearly denies it, some of the party leaders are whispering now that PM Abe deserves another exception of the party rule, meaning the 4th term.  


In any case, PM Abe needs to calculate his political capital considering his remaining term to judge the right timing to bring up his agenda of the Constitutional  Amendment, and the timing of dissolving the lower house for a general election to boost up the capital.


Panasonic Withdraws From Semiconductor Production


Yomiuri reported on November 28 that Panasonic decided to sell off its subsidiary company by the name of Panasonic Semiconductor Solutions to a Taiwanese company.

It would also plan to sell its share (49%) of TowerJazz Panasonic Semiconductor Corp, which is a joint venture between Panasonic and TowerJazz, a Israeli semiconductor company.

Panasonic entered the semiconductor market in 1952 by founding a joint venture company with Philips. 

Its semiconductor production business grew to be one of main pillars of Panasonic in 1990s.

However, it has been losing out against Korean and Taiwanese competitors these days, who have been making much larger capital investment for their semiconductor production facilities. 


With no prospect of getting out of the unprofitable structure of the operation, Panasonic decided to close its near 70 years of semiconductor business. 


 October Marked Zero For Japanese Beer Exports To Korea  




According to October’s trade statistics announced by the Ministry of Finance on November 28, there was no export of Japanese beer to Korea recognized in that month.


4 million to 8 million littles of Japanese beer had been exported to Korea every month up until July this year, but ever since August when the Abe Administration announced tightening its export restriction against Korea, movement of boycott of Japanese products broke out in Korea, which led to the sharp declination of imports of Japanese products. 


Also, as reported by my previous digests, the number of Korean visitors to Japan has been being dramatically decreased.


Whether the Korean Government’s decision to save the GSOMIA intact for the time-being would contribute to a movement of thaw, and Korean consumers would get back to Japanese products is yet to be seen.