South Korea’s imports of rare earth materials

South Korea’s imports of rare earth materials hit the two-year low last month as local companies sought to reduce their dependence on China amid rising prices, the customs office said Monday.

Imports of rare earth materials, including scandium and yttrium, reached a total of 114 tons in January, down 40.3 percent from a month earlier, according to a report by the Korea Customs Service. The inbound shipments shrank 72.1 percent from a year before.

The rare earth imports diminished to the two-year low last month as local firms tried to diversify its import sources, the customs office said. South Korea’s imports of rare earth materials that are used in hybrid, electric vehicles, liquidity crystal displays (LCD) and other high-tech products mostly came from China before, but the proportion of imports from China dropped to 41.03 percent of the total in January from 81.55 percent in December.

Imports from China dropped 70 percent on-month to 47 tons in January, while inbound shipments from Japan surged 200.8 percent to 48 tons over the same period. Imports from France grew 37.5 percent on-month to 17 tons last month.

“Prices for rare earth imported from China, which were the world’s cheapest in the past, have risen sharply, while prices for Japanese rare earth stayed at a relatively low level. Domestic companies shifted its dependence to other sources from China,” an official at the customs office told Xinhua.

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