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Record number of executives join China trip

Dec 14,2017
The largest number of business executives in history are joining President Moon Jae-in’s four-day visit to Beijing today, in the hope of improving frozen relations with China in the aftermath of Korea’s deployment of a U.S.-led antimissile system in March.

According to the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry, a business lobbying group, 260 executives from 35 large companies, 29 mid-sized firms and 160 smaller ones traveled with Moon.

The figure compares to the 156 executives that former President Park Geun-hye took to China in 2015 and the 52 that traveled with Moon to Washington in June. He took 87 executives to Indonesia last month.

The business delegation participated in the Korea-China business forum, jointly hosted by the chamber and the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade on Wednesday evening.

The forum was themed on “the direction of Korea-China economic cooperation toward another 25 years” and some 200 business executives from China took part.

The group of Korean business representatives is also scheduled to attend a partnership event hosted by the state-run Korea Trade-Investment Agency today, when a summit between Moon and Chinese President Xi Jinping is scheduled, and members of the delegation are set to make the most out of the opportunity to thaw the frozen business ties with China.

AmorePacific and Hyundai Motor have set up their own booths to promote themselves at the venue. Another business cooperation forum is slated for Saturday, hosted by the Korea International Trade Association.

“A large-scale event between Korea and China was unimaginable when the conflict over Thaad was at its peak,” said an industry insider. “But bilateral events are pouring out with Moon visiting China.”

From the top five conglomerates, Samsung Vice Chairman Yoon Boo-keun, Hyundai Motor Vice Chairman Chung Eui-sun, SK Chairman Chey Tae-won, LG Vice Chairman Koo Bon-joon and Lotte Vice Chairman Lee Won-joon have accompanied the president. Samsung’s Yoon is going on behalf of jailed de facto head Lee Jae-yong.

Hyundai Motor has cited its Chairman Chung Mong-koo’s age - 79 - as the reason for his son taking the trip.

Both Hyundai Motor and Lotte were dealt a serious blow after the Chinese government retaliated against Korea’s decision to install the Thaad anti-missile system by banning group tours here and targeting Korean companies operating in China.

Lotte Chairman Shin Dong-bin, who is currently on trial over corruption charges, is sending Vice Chairman Lee, following the Moon administration’s implicit principle of disapproving businesses embroiled in controversy joining presidential overseas trips.

SK Chairman Chey will be going with Kim Jun, CEO of SK Innovation, and SK Hynix Vice Chairman Park Sung-wook, as the group braces to step up investment in China.

BY SEO JI-EUN [seo.jieun@joongang.co.kr]