Park ‘goes west’ on China business tour

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Park ‘goes west’ on China business tour

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At left, President Park Geun-hye shakes hands with Jay Y. Lee, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics at the company’s semiconductor factory construction site yesterday in Xi’an. On Saturday, the president joined Hyundai Motor Chairman Chung Mong-koo for a tour of the Beijing Hyundai Motor factory. [Joint Press Corps]

XI’AN, CHINA - During the second half of her trip to her country’s largest trading partner, President Park Geun-hye visited Korean companies and promised her support.

Park yesterday went to the construction site of a semiconductor factory of Samsung Electronics, where the conglomerate plans to spend $7 billion, the company’s largest investment in China.

Samsung Electronics Vice Chairmen Jay Y. Lee and Kwon Oh-hyun accompanied the president.

Her visit to the region was part of plans to encourage Korean companies’ participation in the so-called “China Western Development” program.

“I wish the Samsung semiconductor factory will hugely contribute to both countries’ development,” Park wrote in the visitors register.

Before her departure to China, the Blue House said the ancient city in China’s west was selected because of its economic significance. The Park administration has promoted the “Go West” initiative to support Korean business in the country’s underdeveloped areas.

According to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, Shaanxi Province is a strategic hub for development in the western region with an annual growth rate of 14 percent.

While China’s economy has slowed some, Korean companies are increasingly turning to the west, which has a combined population of about 370 million and 71.4 percent of mainland China’s area.

With the Chinese government’s Western Development Strategy since 2000, the region began catching up with the more prosperous east. Last year, seven of 10 Chinese provinces and cities with the highest growth rates were in the western region, and Blue House officials have urged Korean companies to tap the regional market.

The ministry said yesterday it established an economic consultation channel with the Shaanxi provincial government, expanding the cooperation network from the past practice of communicating only with the central government.

On Saturday, Park visited two Korean companies in Beijing. Her first stop was Korea FT Corporation, a midsize manufacturer of auto components.

During her visit, Park and a group of entrepreneurs from midsize companies shared lunchboxes and discussed their experiences doing business in China. Park promised to work to create a business-friendly environment in which small and midsize companies can play a leading role in her campaign to build a creative economy.

Since her presidential campaign, Park has vowed support for smaller enterprises. After her victory, Park visited the Korea Federation of Small and Medium Business before she met with the Federation of Korean Industries, which represents conglomerates.

Park’s economic delegation also included an unusually large number of entrepreneurs from smaller companies. Of the 71 delegates, 33 represent midsize companies, while 18 are from conglomerates.

At the meeting, participants discussed their experiences, particularly the difficulties of entering the Chinese market. Park promised to consult with the Chinese government on the matter by using the newly agreed upon trade cooperation channel.

O Won-suck, CEO of Korea FT Corporation, later said Park’s visit will add momentum to the small company’s business in China. He expressed high hopes for progress in the Korea-China free trade negotiations, stressing that it would boost the price competitiveness of auto companies and Korean component suppliers.

Park also visited a Hyundai Motor factory in Beijing, getting briefed about the Korean carmaker’s business in China.

As Park arrived at Beijing Hyundai Motor Company Plant 3, Hyundai Chairman Chung Mong-koo and other executives welcomed her. Park was told about the company’s vision to support its suppliers’ businesses in China and its various projects to promote social responsibility, such as scholarships and sports programs. She also toured the production line.

During her visit, Park repeatedly stressed the importance of the rapidly growing middle class of China and their purchasing power, encouraging Korean companies to pay more attention to the opportunity.

“Hyundai Motor is also thinking about it,” Chung said. “We are reviewing the logistics cost and marketability.”

BY SER MYO-JA [myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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