As South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol commenced his state visit to Washington, major South Korean and US companies unveiled plans for investments, joint ventures, and other initiatives worth billions of dollars. Yoon, who refers to himself as South Korea's "No. 1 salesman," emphasizes business deals and "sales diplomacy" as central components of his international trips.
General Motors and Samsung SDI announced on Tuesday that they will jointly invest over $3 billion in constructing an electric vehicle (EV) battery manufacturing facility in the United States, as the automaker seeks to diversify its component suppliers. Additionally, South Korea's Hyundai Motor finalized a $5 billion EV battery joint venture in the United States, bolstering electrification efforts in its largest market.
Following a meeting with Yoon, Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos revealed plans to invest $2.5 billion in South Korea over the next four years, focusing on producing Korean TV series, movies, and unscripted shows. This investment doubles the amount the company has spent in the market since 2016.
Choi Sang-mok, senior presidential secretary for economic affairs, informed reporters last week that dozens of business deals were expected to be signed during Yoon's visit. Yoon's trip, which lasts from April 24-29, is the first state visit to the United States by a South Korean leader in 12 years and commemorates the 70th anniversary of a partnership that has shaped US strategy in Asia and propelled South Korea's emergence as an economic powerhouse.
Yoon is accompanied by over 120 executives from South Korea's largest companies, including Samsung Electronics Executive Chairman Jay Y. Lee and Hyundai Motor Group Executive Chair Euisun Chung. Yoon is scheduled to meet with President Biden for their summit on Wednesday.
A senior US official mentioned last week that Biden intends to praise the considerable South Korean tech investment in the United States, which has nearly reached $100 million since he took office. During Biden's first trip to Asia as US president last year, he visited a large Samsung Electronics semiconductor plant in South Korea, highlighting economic security while considering China and the war in Ukraine. Advanced chips for applications such as 5G and artificial intelligence have emerged as focal points of competition with China, with South Korea playing a critical role in the global supply chain.
However, when the US approved new electric vehicle tax credits and semiconductor business subsidies that negatively impacted South Korean companies, it sparked outrage in Seoul. Yoon's administration officials stated earlier this month that the US Treasury Department's proposed electric vehicle tax rules would "substantially" address many of South Korea's concerns, but experts believe that further resolution of the disputes is unlikely during Yoon's visit.
Political commentator Eom Kyeong-young, based in Seoul, noted, "Yoon still needs economic achievement to present to South Koreans, and will likely emphasize the amount of investment he has attracted from US firms through this visit, like we saw from today's Netflix announcement."