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Carbon fiber industry gets a boost

Hyosung pumps W1T into production to fight Japanese dominance
Aug 21,2019
이미지뷰
Hyosung Group Chairman Cho Hyun-joon, front row left, and President Moon Jae-in, center, tour a Hyosung carbon fiber factory in Jeonju, North Jeolla, after attending a ceremony commemorating the company’s 1 trillion won ($828 million) in planned investment in the facility on Tuesday. [YONHAP]
Hyosung Group announced Tuesday it will invest 1 trillion won ($828 million) into its carbon fiber factory in Jeonju, North Jeolla, to increase the facility’s production capacity more than tenfold to become the third-largest producer of the material in the world by 2028.

President Moon Jae-in promised strong government support in fostering the local carbon fiber industry while attending a ceremony held Tuesday to commemorate Hyosung’s investment at the facility in Jeonju.

Moon’s visit comes as carbon fiber is expected to be one of the products that will be subject to Japanese export restrictions following Korea being excluded from the neighboring country’s so-called white list from Aug. 28.

Carbon fiber is one of the key materials necessary for the hydrogen economy strongly promoted by the Moon administration. The material, which is one-fourth the weight of steel but 10 times stronger, is used in making hydrogen tanks for hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles.

“We expect the investment to become a chance not only to localize a key industrial material, but also a chance to create more jobs and invigorate the regional economy,” Moon said. “The government will strongly support the development of key industrial materials including carbon fiber … to create a more independent business environment.”

It is the second visit by Moon to companies producing goods that Korea has depended on Japan for. Earlier this month, Moon visited SBB Tech, a company that has succeeded in localizing the manufacturing of precision control decelerators, which had mostly been imported from Japan.

According to Hyosung Chairman Cho Hyun-joon, the investment will be used to expand the Jeonju facility’s production capacity by 12 times from the current 2,000 tons to 24,000 tons by 2028. While the factory, operated by Hyosung’s advanced materials producing arm Hyosung Advanced Materials, currently operates only one production line, the group plans to operate 10 by 2028.

Hyosung said it injected 320 billion won into establishing and operating the first production line in 2013 and building a second production line in March this year. The second line is scheduled to be completed in January next year. The rest of the investment will be used in setting up eight more production lines and creating jobs.

“We jumped into developing our own technology because we saw potential in carbon fiber,” Cho said. “As the hydrogen economy has opened up new markets for the carbon fiber industry, we will bolster our business to make Hyosung play a key role in making Korea’s materials industry stronger.”

According to Hyosung, it will step up to become the third-largest carbon fiber producer in the world by taking 10 percent of the world’s market share by the time its investments are complete. Currently, 60 percent of the world’s carbon fiber market is dominated by Japanese companies. Hyosung is the 11th largest carbon fiber producer, accounting for 2 percent of the global supply.

The company also said it will create more than 2,300 new jobs by expanding the carbon fiber business. Currently, 400 employees either work at the factory or engage in research or sales of carbon fiber.

The market prospects for carbon fiber are positive, as the material is used not only for hydrogen fuel-cell cars but also in aerospace parts, wind turbines and various defense products.

After the Hyosung facility, Moon also visited food processing company Harim in Iksan, North Jeolla, as it announced plans to make an 880 billion won investment into its Iksan facility and create some 2,000 jobs by 2024.

BY KIM JEE-HEE [kim.jeehee@joongang.co.kr]