U.S. to Probe S. Korean DRAM Makers

The U.S. Department of Commerce Friday said it is investigating the practices of South Korean chipmakers after a complaint filed by Micron Technology alerted them to possible biased government paid subsidies to make dynamic random access memory (DRAM) chips.

As internetnews.com previously reported, Boise, Idaho-based Micron claims South Korea gave multi-billion-dollar bailout packages and loan subsidies to Hynix Semiconductor and Samsung Electronic including loan write-offs, debt-for-equity swaps, government-induced debt financings and re-financings on noncommercial terms, special export financing and special tax treatment.

The U.S. Department of Justice launched a separate investigation into allegations of price-fixing and collusion among DRAM manufacturers earlier this year. The European Union started a similar investigation in July.

The South Korean government denies Micron’s claims saying it would be willing to take the issue to the world’s top trade body to argue its case.

“Although this probe will have no direct impact on exports, the final verdict, if made, will have a significant ripple effect,” South Korea’s Commerce Ministry told Reuters. “We will seek aggressive countermeasures.”

Micron’s hope is that the U.S. will impose a countervailing duty on DRAM imports from Samsung and Hynix. The DOC is considering levying tariffs on imports to the U.S. of South Korean DRAM products.

Last year, South Korea made $14.3 billion in overseas DRAM sales, making the memory chips the country’s biggest export. Sales from South Korea to the United States and Europe represent 17.5 percent of semiconductor exports.

The U.S. Commerce Department is due to announce its findings on April 10, 2003, and the U.S. International Trade Commission will announce findings on May 25,

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