Japan will impose a 27 percent tariff on Hynix DRAM chips, stating that low-cost loans from banks controlled by the South Korean government amounted to unfair subsidies. The duties follow similar penalities by the US and European Union.

Japan will put on the countervailing duties as early as the end of this month, but no exact time frame has been set, said a Hynix spokeswoman.

Hynix insists it did not receive any illegal subsidies from the South Korean government. The nation's commerce ministry also said it plans to use all legal means to fight the duties, including complaints to the World Trade Organisation.

"We do not expect this to cause serious damage to our company," said a Hynix spokeswoman. Since the duties will only apply to DRAM chips made in South Korea, the chip maker plans to expand its partnership with Taiwanese DRAM maker ProMOS in order to meet the needs of its customers in Japan.

In 2003, the US imposed a 44 percent tariff on Hynix DRAM made in South Korea, while the EU's duty totalled 33 percent. The US duty was upheld earlier this year by a WTO panel, but the EU was told it had violated its obligations and should reconsider its tariff.

Users aren't likely to see any kind of a bottleneck on DRAM chips as a result, but prices might rise in the short term as the DRAM market digests the news. DRAM trades on open spot markets like commodities such as oil and gold, and major events can have a big impact on pricing.