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Samsung chief picks UAE as destination of 1st trip after becoming chairman

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Lee Jae-yong, left, chairman of Samsung Electronics, and Sheikh Mohammed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, then crown prince of Abu Dhabi and now president of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), tour Samsung's Hwaseong campus south of Seoul, Feb. 26, 2019. Courtesy of Samsung Electronics
Lee Jae-yong, left, chairman of Samsung Electronics, and Sheikh Mohammed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, then crown prince of Abu Dhabi and now president of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), tour Samsung's Hwaseong campus south of Seoul, Feb. 26, 2019. Courtesy of Samsung Electronics

By Baek Byung-yeul

Lee Jae-yong, chairman of Samsung Electronics, chose the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as the destination of his first overseas business trip since becoming chairman of Korea's largest conglomerate in October, according to industry sources.

The sources said Lee left for the UAE on Sunday. Although it remains unclear who he will meet there, the chairman is expected to have a meeting with Sheikh Mohammed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the president of the UAE.

Fueling the speculation is the fact that the UAE president has invited global business figures and politicians every winter to hold private social gatherings. Lee also visited the UAE in December last year. During that trip, Lee reportedly met with President Sheikh Mohammed, who is the crown prince of Abu Dhabi.

A Samsung Electronics spokesman refused to confirm Lee's visit to the UAE.

Given that the UAE has been trying to diversify its economic structure, which is heavily dependent on oil, attention is focused on what types of cooperative measures Lee and the UAE president will discuss.

As part of the plans, the UAE launched project Vision 2021 in 2010 to achieve growth in healthcare, education, sustainability and infrastructure. In 2017, the UAE organized a strategic plan to lead the Fourth Industrial Revolution as a global hub, and has invested $18 billion to build Masdar City, a planned smart city in the country.

Samsung Electronics has focused on strengthening its cooperation with the UAE, as the company expects a new market to open there in the sectors that the company excels in, such as 5G networks and semiconductors.

The UAE also recently announced its Vision 2031 plan, another national plan for the development of the country over the next 10 years. The country said, "The plan seeks to enhance the position of the UAE as a global partner and an attractive and influential economic hub. It aims to highlight the successful economic model of the UAE and the opportunities it provides to all global partners."

Industry insiders believe Lee will also visit Vietnam during his next overseas business trip. In 2020, Samsung Electronics invested $220 million to build an R&D center in Hanoi. As the research center is scheduled to be completed this year, the chairman is expected to take part in a ceremony marking the completion of the center.

In line with Lee's visit, the presidential office said Monday that Presidential chief of staff Kim Dae-ki will also make an official visit to the UAE this month to deliver President Yoon Suk-yeol's commitment to bolstering the special strategic partnership between the two countries.

"Korea will reaffirm the special strategic partners' relationship with the UAE and convey President Yoon's special will during Kim's visit," the presidential office said, adding that Kim's detailed travel schedule is currently being coordinated with the UAE.


Baek Byung-yeul baekby@koreatimes.co.kr


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