Samsung, Hyundai Motor become Korea's strategic assets after Yoon-Biden summit

From left are U.S. President Joe Biden, President Yoon Suk-yeol and Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong at Samsung Electronics' manufacturing plant in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province, May 20. Korea Times file

Korea-US economic interests highlighted beyond joint security

By Lee Kyung-min

Samsung Electronics and Hyundai Motor have cemented themselves as Korea's strategic assets representing new key national security priorities, lifted by the nation's growing economic ties with the United States after U.S. President Joe Biden's recent visit to Seoul, business groups and market watchers said Tuesday.

The alliance in the manufacturing of semiconductors, electric vehicles and other high-tech products has essentially surpassed the Korea-U.S. joint defense interests in value, they say, signaling the beginning of a new era of more profound cooperation propped up by global value chain issues amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the prolonged U.S.-China hegemony war.

Trust-oriented long-term joint innovation and investments will be promoted. This, they expect, will result in accelerated structural and technological advancements in the industry, long in need of an expanded Korea-U.S. alliance to better encompass economic, environmental and digital issues on the global stage.

Hyundai Motor Group Chairman Chung Euisun, right, and U.S. President Joe Biden walk to a podium for a speech at Grand Hyatt Seoul in Yongsan, Seoul, May 22. Korea Times file

“We are heartened by the U.S. president's recent visit,” a spokesperson for the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry said.

Biden's three-day visit began at Samsung Electronics' manufacturing plant in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province, May 20. The 22-minute tour was guided by Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong. On the last day of the visit, the U.S. president met with Hyundai Motor Group Chairman Chung Euisun who pledged an investment of $10.5 billion in the U.S.

The U.S. president making visits to manufacturing plants and arranging meetings with business leaders is a strong indication that economic issues are being treated as a priority just as important as national security matters, according to the official. This is a clear shift from the previous stance where military and defense issues took precedence in the bilateral agenda.

“Korean firms are taking the recent developments as a positive sign that business interests will take center stage in strengthening the strategic alliance,” he said.

Businesses say mutual growth will be likely, underpinned by a combination of advanced U.S. technology and Korea's manufacturing capabilities.

The cooperation will in turn lead to strong sales both in the U.S. and Korea, a much-needed opportunity to bounce back from years of the COVID-19 pandemic-scarred economy.

“The enhanced understanding between the two countries on the need for stable economic cooperation will help them navigate a slew of other thorny global issues together, such as carbon neutrality, climate change and many others,” the official said.

Hyundai Motor said that the Biden visit helped the group map out a long-term growth strategy in the U.S., in line with its growing corporate presence in the world's largest economy and the importer of a large number of its smaller partner firms that manufacture car parts.

“The meeting between our chairman and the U.S. president reaffirmed the need to strengthen the alliance in automobile manufacturing,” a Hyundai Motor spokesperson said.

“We maintain that the U.S. production and sales of our electric vehicles (EVs) will increase, lifted by closer communication with consumers and local partners. Korea's EVs and car parts manufacturing companies will see stronger growth momentum, leading to a corresponding increase in exports to the U.S.,” he added.

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