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'Vitamins' in high-tech industries that are used for Smartphones, semiconductorsThe rare earth

Securing natural resources is an important variable in taking the lead in the global economy. China, which is waging a fierce trade war with the U.S., recently launched a counterattack on rare earth elements buried in its territory with weapons. Rare earth refers to 17 types of rare minerals such as dystrothium, neodymium and lanthan. It is the equivalent of 57 to 71 in the periodic table of elements. These minerals, which have not even been named to the public, are important because they are used as essential ingredients in many industries. China accounts for 95 percent of the world's rare earth output.


Rare earth is widely used in key components of military weapons such as missiles and radars, as well as products such as mobile phones, semiconductors and cars. It is also used in the fields of steel, ceramics and renewable energy, and medicine. It is also necessary to make motors, magnetic levitation trains and monitors as it has characteristics such as absorbing electromagnetic waves while having unique magnetic properties. This is why it is called the "vitamin of the high-tech industry."

China showed signs of striking back with rare earths in the U.S., which slapped high tariffs on Chinese products, on July 20. Chinese President Xi Jinping toured rare earth production facilities in Ganzhou, Jiangxi Province, along with Liu He, the chief U.S.-China trade negotiator. A spokesman for China's National Development and Reform Commission then said Friday that rare earths can be used as leverage in the U.S.-China trade war. China has long controlled the supply of 16 strategically important rare earth metals. Under mounting pressure from the U.S., "it is unacceptable to have products made of rare earths we exported and to impede China's development."

The United States procures 80 percent of imported rare earths from China. This is why the U.S. raised tariff rates on almost all Chinese imports, but excluded rare earth materials from the list. In 2010, when China was in diplomatic conflict with Japan, it threatened to sell rare earth materials to Japan. At that time, Japan "reported" in just a few days.


The rare earth is named "Rarely Hee," so you may think the reserves themselves are small, but they are not. Not only are they buried all over the world, but they are also found in Gangwon Province and North Chungcheong Province in Korea. However, the share of the original stone is very low. It costs a lot of production and is harmful to the environment because many stones have to be processed and thrown away to get a small amount. This is why advanced countries do not produce their own products but mostly use them from China.


The U.S. can mine rare earths from its territory if it decides to. However, many point out that it takes time to secure China-level output and profitability. The U.S. Department of Defense recently submitted a report to Congress on ways to reduce reliance on rare earths from China.

이윤석  kipper1109@naver.com

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