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July 06, 2022

Biden picks Samsung chip complex to start his Seoul visit

PUBLISHED : May 19, 2022 - 09:07

UPDATED : May 19, 2022 - 09:07

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Samsung Electronics' chip manufacturing complex in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province (Bloomberg)

US President Joe Biden is expected to start his three-day state visit this week with a tour of Samsung Electronics’ chip complex, according to industry sources on Wednesday. 

Biden will arrive in Seoul on Friday for summit talks with President Yoon Suk-yeol on Saturday. Upon his arrival at the Osan Air Base, he is reportedly heading directly to Samsung’s chip complex in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province, some 70 kilometers south of Seoul.

Seoul’s presidential office also confirmed the visit but called it “a tentative schedule.”

“If the event is held, President Yoon also plans to join, make a speech and meet workers there,” Kim Tae-hyo, the first deputy director of the national security office, told reporters.

He declined to further elaborate due to security issues.

Sources said Samsung’s Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong, the de facto leader of the nation’s largest conglomerate, is highly likely offer the two presidents a personal tour around the facilities.

The Pyeongtaek complex is one of the world’s largest semiconductor manufacturing facilities stretching across a 289,000 square-meter site, the equivalent of some 400 soccer field.

Biden will become the first US president to visit the site that is located near the Camp Humphreys, the largest overseas US military installation and home to the 28,500-member US Forces Korea

Back in 2017, former President Donald Trump was quoted as saying he was greatly impressed by the huge size of the complex as he looked down at it from a helicopter on his way to the US garrison.

Samsung started construction of the complex in May 2015. The first production line, called P1, started operation in 2017 to produce memory chips, while the P2, completed in 2020, produces both memory and foundry chips.

Both P1 and P2 were the world’s largest chip production facilities at the time of completion. The upcoming P3, scheduled to be completed in the latter half of next year, is expected to be equipped with the world’s largest clean room.

Biden’s high-profile visit comes amid his big push to reshape global supply chains after a series of disruptions including the COVID-19 pandemic, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and a trade war with China.

He aims to promote new production and trading channels for essential goods like chips and batteries that run through friendly nations.

Biden has held a series of supply chain meetings with business leaders since his inauguration in January last year, with Samsung, the world’s largest memory chip maker, being one of the key participants.

In response to Biden’s new initiative, Samsung announced a $17 billion plan last year to build a new foundry plant in Taylor, Texas. The plant, along with the Pyeongtaek complex, will become Samsung’s key chip production base.

In the meantime, Biden’s schedule will be packed with summit meetings on Saturday. Later in the day, he is expected to attend a welcoming banquet hosted by Yoon. About 10 chaebol leaders, including those of the nation’s top four Samsung, SK, Hyundai Motor and LG, have also been invited.

By Lee Ji-yoon (jylee@heraldcorp.com)

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