Updated from 6:13 p.m. EDT

Today the official government word came down: Korean chipmaker Hynix will be saddled with a fat duty on all imports to the U.S., amounting to nearly 45% of the cost of its goods.

The move is intended to level the playing field for DRAM makers such as Micron ( MU), which has complained that Hynix has unfairly benefited from heavy subsidies courtesy of the Korean government.

But it's still unclear whether the decision will translate to a gain for Micron. On Wall Street, some analysts hailed the news as a net plus for the U.S. DRAM (dynamic random access memory) vendor. Others cautioned that in a global market, a penalty imposed in one country won't make much difference, because Hynix may compensate simply by trying to sell more chips outside American borders.

More to the point, the continuing saga underscores that Hynix, one of the top few producers, remains in the DRAM game, despite persistent rumors that it was teetering on bankruptcy. That means the overcapacity that has weighed on DRAM prices shows no signs of disappearing.

"There's no doubt, I think, that Hynix is not going to be allowed to go under. It would be too damaging to the Korean economy," said Richard Gordon, memory analyst for Gartner. "I think we're past the point of maybe six months ago when Hynix was looking very dodgy. Now that's past; they've restructured their debt and they're investing in technology."

Gordon argues the imposition of a duty on U.S. imports is essentially meaningless. "Hynix isn't going to build DRAM and stick it in a warehouse in Korea; it's going to end up in the market somewhere," he says.

Chip Here, Chip There, Chips Everywhere

In practice, the company may react to the duty by shipping more chips into the Asia-Pacific market, which would have the effect of pulling down prices there. And falling prices in Asia would in turn force U.S. and European DRAM makers to lower their own prices -- in effect, canceling out the benefits of a duty. "I think in a global industry, customers will buy DRAM wherever it's cheapest," sums up Gordon.