By Kim Yoo-chul
SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won, also head of the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), plans to accompany President Moon Jae-in next week for the South Korean leader’s first summit with U.S. President Joe Biden in Washington, D.C.
Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Kim Ki-nam, who is in charge of managing Samsung’s semiconductor business, is considering visiting the U.S., while SK Bioscience chief Ahn Jae-yong is scheduled to join the trip. LG Energy Solution (LGES) CEO Kim Jong-hyun will also fly to Washington. But Hyundai Motor Group Chairman Chung Euisun will not join the business delegation, according to officials and sources, Wednesday.
The sources said Cheong Wa Dae is in talks with the trade ministry to finalize the size of the business delegation. Senior executives from companies that invested in the United States have been asked to accompany the President.
At the planned summit, Moon is set to ask Biden to stand with him to break the continued deadlock in inter-Korean talks. The Biden administration made it clear that it would undertake a “more calibrated, practical, measured approach” in dealing with North Korea, one that seeks progress towards verifiable and complete denuclearization through open diplomacy. Moon said earlier that his administration will upgrade Seoul’s alliance with Washington and prepare a comprehensive North Korea strategy.
But business circles here are paying more attention to the specifics of the itineraries of top-ranking executives at Samsung, SK and LGES during Moon’s U.S. visit, as these companies are major foreign investors in the United States by operating massive manufacturing plants there. It’s still uncertain whether they will hold in-person meetings with Biden administration officials.
But because Biden is on track to promote a massive infrastructure plan as the country is reeling from the effects of the pandemic, the South Korean businessmen are set to hold “working-level meetings” with U.S. government officials both directly and indirectly, officially and unofficially.
Samsung Vice Chairman Kim is set to receive the latest updates on his company’s planned massive semiconductor investment plan, as Samsung is increasingly being asked to join Washington’s “chip-democracy” initiative amid the continued global semiconductor chip shortage. The world’s top memory chip manufacturer is set to announce a $17 billion investment plan during Moon’s visit.
For SK Chairman Chey, his trip comes after he took the top position at the KCCI, the country’s largest lobby group representing the interests of conglomerates here, and its agreement with LGES to end their blockbuster battery intellectual property dispute.
“Business circles expect the Moon-Biden summit to pave the way for both countries to level up their alliance in batteries and chips, as South Korea has a competitive edge in DRAM manufacturing, while the United States is home to a lot of companies which have clear advantages in logic-chip manufacturing,” an industry official said.