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Business chiefs meet Vietnamese leader

Samsung, Hyundai and GS all talk shop with prime minister
Nov 29,2019
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Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong, left, and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc discuss business on Thursday in Seoul. [YONHAP]
The chiefs of Samsung Electronics and Hyundai Motor and other Korean business leaders discussed investment and business plans on Thursday with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc as the groups compete for a stronger position in the broader Southeast Asian market.

Lee Jae-yong, vice chairman and de facto leader of Samsung Electronics, met with the prime minister, the tech giant confirmed.

“Vice Chairman Lee explained Samsung’s business strategy in Vietnam and thanked the Vietnamese government for its support,” a source at the company said, while declining to comment on the specific topics of the discussion.

Still, multiple media outlets including Vietnamese newspaper Tin Tuc reported that Nguyen proposed Samsung build a semiconductor factory in the region on top of the existing production lines for smartphones, displays and home appliances.

In making the request, Nguyen likely offered a wide range of incentives including a tariff cut.

Lee reportedly said that the electronics company is in need of considerable human resources, as reflected in its plan to hire 3,000 engineers for a new research and development center in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Vietnam is considered a primary production hub for Asia as Samsung’s smartphone factory there covers more than half of its global production, at 160 million units.

The meeting was made on the sidelines of a forum hosted by the Federation of Korean Industries, one of the leading business lobbying groups, and follows a closed-door discussion with Nguyen during Lee’s visit to Vietnam last October.

The heads of Samsung’s affiliates - Samsung Electro-Mechanics CEO Lee Yun-tae and Samsung Display CEO Lee Dong-hoon - joined the meeting, though the Samsung Electronics’ Koh Dong-jin could not make it due to another schedule.

Euisun Chung, Hyundai Motor Group’s executive vice chairman, also sat down with Nguyen to discuss business strategy in the region.

With few details unveiled, Chung told reporters that “the atmosphere was great” after the private meeting that also included Kong Young-woon, president and director in charge of the strategy planning division at Hyundai Motor.

At the forum, GS Group Chairman Huh Chang-soo, who also heads the lobbying group, called for a closer tie in trading, setting $100 billion as the goal.

“The bilateral trade between the two nations increased almost 100 times after forming trade relations, and the trading volume hit a record high at $68.3 billion last year,” Huh said. “Let’s pave the way for an era of $100 billion.”

Other leaders from GS affiliates including Huh Myung-soo, vice chairman of GS Engineering & Construction, and Lim Byung-yong, CEO of the construction company, also met with Nguyen.

BY PARK EUN-JEE [park.eunjee@joongang.co.kr]