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Korea, the Netherlands to establish ‘semiconductor alliance’ during summit

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President Yoon Suk Yeol, fifth from left, takes a commemorative photo with Samsung Electronics Chairman Lee Jae-yong, third from left, SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won, far right, Dutch King Willem-Alexander, third from right, and ASML Chief Executive Peter Wennink, fourth from left, while viewing Dutch semiconductor equipment maker ASML's cleanroom at its global headquarters in Veldhoven in the Netherlands on Tuesday. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]
President Yoon Suk Yeol, fifth from left, takes a commemorative photo with Samsung Electronics Chairman Lee Jae-yong, third from left, SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won, far right, Dutch King Willem-Alexander, third from right, and ASML Chief Executive Peter Wennink, fourth from left, while viewing Dutch semiconductor equipment maker ASML’s cleanroom at its global headquarters in Veldhoven in the Netherlands on Tuesday. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]

Korea and the Netherlands will formally establish a “semiconductor alliance” in a joint statement to be adopted by President Yoon Suk Yeol and Prime Minister Mark Rutte in a bilateral summit Wednesday.

The two countries seek to bring about an edge to their semiconductor cooperation and jointly overcome supply chain risks amid concerns over disruptions due to geopolitical tensions, Kim Tae-hyo, principal deputy national security adviser, told reporters in a press briefing in Amsterdam on Tuesday.

“Korea and the Netherlands have decided to promote special peacetime cooperation in the semiconductor field,” Kim said. “We decided to pursue an alliance that jointly executes and implements scenarios to immediately and efficiently overcome a semiconductor supply chain crisis, in the event such a crisis occurs.”

The two sides were set to establish a new bilateral consultative body in the fields of economy, security and industry to implement the semiconductor alliance.

In codifying their commitment to building a semiconductor alliance in the joint statement, the two countries will specify the goals, meaning and methods of strengthening their chips cooperation, comparable to a security cooperation.

“The establishing of this alliance will serve as an opportunity to more closely connect the semiconductor supply chain ecosystems of the two countries,” Kim said, touting their “complementary” nature.

The two countries will also establish an annual economic and security dialogue channel and begin semiconductor dialogue to coordinate chip policies.

Yoon has been on a five-day state visit to the Netherlands since Monday, eyeing to strengthen strategic cooperation through the bilateral summit with Rutte and the signing of agreements between the two countries.

“This is probably the first time that Korea has formed a semiconductor alliance with a specific country in a joint statement at the government level, and also likely the first time for the Netherlands,” a senior presidential official told reporters.

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On Tuesday, Yoon, accompanied by executives of Korea’s top chipmakers, visited leading Dutch semiconductor equipment maker ASML’s global headquarters in Veldhoven in the Netherlands with King Willem-Alexander.

Yoon and Willem-Alexander toured the “cleanroom” facility at ASML and viewed the next-generation extreme ultraviolet (EUV) equipment production site, according to the presidential office.

Yoon is the first foreign leader to be shown around the cleanroom, where ASML’s machines are produced. They were greeted by ASML Chief Executive Peter Wennink, whom Yoon met with twice before, including in July in Seoul.

This visit to ASML is especially significant as the Dutch multinational corporation provides advanced chip manufacturing equipment to Korea’s biggest chipmakers, Samsung Electronics and SK hynix.

Yoon and Willem-Alexander took part in a Korea-Netherlands semiconductor business dialogue at ASML, involving executives of Korean and European semiconductor companies and institutions. The dialogue was attended by representatives from Samsung Electronics, SK hynix, ASM, a Dutch company specializing in producing semiconductor devices for wafer processing, German imaging company Zeiss and IMEC, a Belgian semiconductor research institute, according to the presidential office.

“The technological innovation led by ASML is becoming a powerful driving force of the fourth industrial revolution around the world,” Yoon said. “We are grateful that Dutch semiconductor companies such as ASML and ASM have expanded their investments in Korea by building new facilities for production, research and development and training talent.”

Yoon said he hopes to strengthen the Korea-Netherlands chip alliance through his visit, adding he will work toward “strengthening direct communication between the two governments and provide all necessary support for the success of semiconductor cooperation projects by Korean and Dutch companies.”

Yoon and Willem-Alexander took part in a signing ceremony as Korea and the Netherlands sealed three memoranda of understanding (MOU) for cooperation in the semiconductor field.

The two sides agreed to establish a Korean-Dutch academy for cutting-edge semiconductor technology led by ASML, which is set to launch in February next year, enabling engineering students of both countries to cooperate.

Samsung Electronics and ASML will invest 1 trillion won ($762 million) in a joint research center in Korea dedicated to ultrafine semiconductor manufacturing processes utilizing next-generation EUV lithography machines, including the newest high-NA system. SK hynix and ASML also agreed to work on hydrogen recycling technology to enhance the energy efficiency of EUVs.

The Netherlands is a key player in stabilizing the semiconductor supply chain amid the technological hegemonic struggle between the United States and China.

Yoon and first lady Kim Keon Hee were received in an official welcome ceremony by Willem-Alexander and his wife, Queen Maxima, in Dam Square in Amsterdam earlier Tuesday.

Yoon later laid a wreath at a national monument in Dam Square dedicated to World War II victims, held a private luncheon with the king and queen and attended a state dinner at the Royal Palace in Amsterdam in the evening.

Yoon and Kim are set to return to Seoul on Friday.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]