How an obscure rubber company in Japan became a linchpin of the tech industry



AUG 20, 2019

When Japan decided to pick a fight with South Korea last month, it dug deep into the supply chain to impose sanctions on three obscure materials made by a handful of Japanese companies few have ever heard of.

The most powerful weapon in Tokyo’s campaign against its neighbor turned out to be a half dozen or so niche firms with names like JSR Corp., Shin-Etsu Chemical Co. and Tokyo Ohka Kogyo Co. They make fluorinated polyimide, hydrogen fluoride and photoresist: essential ingredients for the manufacture of the displays and semiconductors that go into every piece of modern consumer electronics, from Apple Inc. iPhones and Dell Technologies Inc. laptops to the full range of Samsung Electronics Co. devices.