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Sunday, December 3, 2023

European high-tech entities to invest nearly $1B in Korea

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Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol shakes hands with business executives who participated in the event where six European companies pledged a near $1 billion investment to Korea at a hotel in Paris on Wednesday. [YONHAP]
Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol shakes hands with business executives who participated in the event where six European companies pledged a near $1 billion investment to Korea at a hotel in Paris on Wednesday. [YONHAP]

PARIS — Korea has drawn 1.2 trillion won ($940 million) worth of investment from six European high-tech companies in fields ranging from secondary battery to offshore wind power plants.

The investment was announced Wednesday in Paris with Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol in attendance. Yoon is visiting the city to attend the general assembly of the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE).

The investment plan includes building production and research and development (R&D) facilities and constructing an offshore wind power plant in Korea.

“Korea and Europe are partners that share universal values through mutual investment,” said President Yoon at the event.

“The Korean government is committed to forming the best investment landscape for foreign businesses to invest and create jobs to their full potential.”

Imerys, a French battery solution manufacturer, will build black carbon production facilities in Korea. Black carbon is used in batteries to enhance their performance.

Umicore, a Belgian cathodes company, will build a production facility and an R&D center in Korea, expected to help Korea respond to the growing demand for battery-powered vehicles.

Auto components company Continental and high-performance polymer manufacturer Nylacast pledged to build respective manufacturing facilities.

Norway’s Equinor and Denmark’s CIP are poised to build an offshore wind power plant in Korea.

While speaking to students at the Sorbonne the same day, Yoon called on the so-called “Paris Initiative” to establish a new global digital order.

“Like the French Revolution, digital [technology] should contribute to expanding human freedom, not suppress it, and such an ethical principle should come before anything else,” said Yoon as he gave a speech at the Paris Digital Vision Forum at the Sorbonne.

He focused on the need to establish digital order norms so that digital technology can develop in a way that contributes to the expansion of human welfare.

The event was a venue to discuss the direction of digital norms and sought cooperation with leading scholars in Europe amidst intense debate on ethical standards for artificial intelligence (AI) due to the spread of ChatGPT, the presidential office said in a statement.

Through the Paris Initiative, Yoon presented principles for digital norms to establish a global digital order and proposed the establishment of an international organization to establish such global norms.

In particular, the Paris Initiative emphasized an inclusiveness that could be applied to countries at any stage of digitalization, not limited to just AI, but covering all areas from data and computer capabilities to digital basics.

Notable attendees alongside experts in digital technology and AI included Markus Gabriel, a philosophy professor at the University of Bonn in Germany, Fleur Pellerin, a former French culture minister and Korean adoptee and Bernard Werber, a French science fiction writer.

This comes along with Yoon’s efforts to visit universities and meet with students from countries he has visited in the past year, including New York University and Harvard University in the United States and Keio University in Japan.

Likewise, Yoon met with some 300 people for a “dialogue with the future innovative generation” at Station F, the world’s largest startup campus, on Tuesday to encourage solidarity between the two countries’ youths.

The event held the “Coffee with the President: Freedom and Solidarity as a Force for Innovation” and was held along the sidelines of Yoon’s summit with French President Emmanuel Macron.

“In order to overcome the challenges and crises facing the world, we need endless innovation based on freedom and solidarity,” Yoon said. “Above all, you, who are the future generation, need to arm yourselves with innovative minds rooted in liberalism and internationalism.”

He highlighted that Korea is taking steps to join the Horizon Europe research and innovation program and has launched the Korea-EU Green Partnership and the South Korea-EU Digital Partnership, pledging to take the lead in overcoming crises through innovation based on “global solidarity and innovation,” his office said.

Among the attendees of the event were Roxanne Varza, director of Station F, and Cédric O, former French secretary of state for the digital economy who is of Korean descent, and Park Ha-hyeon, CFO and co-founder of French startup Omena.

As his last schedule in Paris, Yoon attended a reception hosted by Korea to rally support from foreign delegations for Busan’s 2030 World Expo bid, following up with his English-language presentation at the BIE general assembly Tuesday.

Later Wednesday, Yoon and first lady Kim Keon-hee headed to Hanoi for the second leg of his six-day trip for a state visit to Vietnam, Korea’s third-largest trading partner.

Yoon will be accompanied by a 205-member business delegation, his largest ever, including leaders of Korea’s top conglomerates such as Samsung Electronics, SK Inc., Hyundai Motor Group, LG Corp, Hanwha Group and Lotte Group.

On Friday, Yoon is scheduled to hold a summit with Vietnamese President Vo Van Thuong to discuss ways to deepen the comprehensive strategic partnership between the two countries.

Yoon will also meet with Nguyen Phu Trong, general secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam, Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh and Vuong Dinh Hue, chairman of Vietnam’s National Assembly.

He will also attend a series of business-related events and meet with Koreans living in Vietnam.

Yoon and Kim return to Seoul Saturday.

BY EUN-SOO JIN, SARAH KIM [jin.eunsoo@joongang.co.kr]