Hyosung carbon fiber factory breaks new ground

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Hyosung carbon fiber factory breaks new ground

Hyosung, which developed its own technology for producing carbon fiber, has officially started rolling out the material, becoming the first company in Korea to produce the sophisticated material.

A 182,253-square-meter (45-acre) plant in Jeonju, North Jeolla, boasts an annual production capacity of 2,000 tons of carbon fiber, and Hyosung plans to expand the capacity to 14,000 tons a year by 2020 by investing a combined 1.2 trillion won ($1.1 billion).

Last year alone, Korean companies imported 3,000 tons of carbon fiber, a material that is expected to eventually replace steel.

“It is remarkable that a future high-tech material is developed by our own technology and that a large-scale production plant is built,” said Yoon Sang-jick, minister of trade, industry and energy, at the opening of the plant.

“Carbon fiber combines with cutting-edge technologies such as automobiles, aircraft, aerospace and machinery, and it is a growth engine for a creative economy. It will create high-quality jobs,” Yoon said.

Yesterday’s groundbreaking event was attended by some 600 guests including Yoon, governor of North Jeolla, Kim Wan-joo, and Jeonju Mayor Song Ha-jin.

Hyosung aims to tap both the domestic and overseas carbon fiber markets by nurturing the industry as one of its main export items, the company said.

The future of the industry looks bright as global demand for the material is forecast to increase 11 percent every year to reach $5 billion or 125,000 tons by 2020 from the $2 billion or 50,000 tons in 2012.

Currently, Japanese companies, led by Toray Industries and Mitsubishi Rayon, have more than 60 percent of the global market for carbon fiber.

According to industry insiders, carbon fiber earned the nickname of “dream material” as it is 10 times stronger and five times lighter than steel. The material is already used for key parts of the Airbus A380 and Boeing 787. It is also used in wind turbines, golf clubs and fishing rods.

“Believing that carbon fiber will be a new growth engine for the Korean economy, Hyosung began technical development of the material in 2007,” said Lee Sang-woon, vice chairman of Hyosung.

“Hyosung will continue technical development and strengthen the business to produce high- quality products. It will serve as a stepping stone for carbon fiber-related industries to grow,” Lee added.

By Kim Mi-ju [mijukim@joongang.co.kr]

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