The cooperation between China and South Korea in the field of chip production has been growing and intensifying, despite the US efforts to limit its development. The import of silicon wafers for chip production from China to South Korea has been steadily increasing in recent years and has almost caught up with the indicators of Japanese-Korean cooperation in this market. In January 2023, silicon wafers worth $74.88 million were imported to South Korea from China, while they were imported from Japan in the same month in the amount of $77.70 million.
The import volumes of silicon wafers from China to South Korea have been growing consistently over the past few years, with import volumes of $424 million in 2020, $653 million in 2021, and $777.7 million in 2022. In contrast, there has been a slow decline in imports of similar products from Japan to South Korea, with imports of $916 million in 2020, $948 million in 2021, and $897 million in 2022.
The global market for silicon wafers and related products is approximately $12 billion, with the top five vendors dominating over 95% of the market. Japanese companies Shin-Etsu and Sumco control 31.4% and 24.4% of the global market, respectively, while Taiwanese company GlobalWafers and South Korean company SK Siltron account for 17.8% and 13.5%, respectively. German company Siltronic controls 9.5% of the market.
However, the market has changed significantly in the last two years, with the development of Chinese companies that supply inexpensive competitive wafers. These companies are not included in SEMI statistics and primarily offer 150- and 200-mm versions of the lower and middle price segments. According to South Korean customs, weightwise wafers from Japan cost from $550,000 to $650,000 per ton, while Chinese versions are much cheaper, ranging from $50,000 to $120,000 per ton.