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Business & Politics

Samsung heir Lee on US trip for foundry investment, COVID vaccines

Lee’s US visit, his first in five years, signals his return to management, filling the void left by his imprisonment

By Nov 14, 2021 (Gmt+09:00)

Samsung Vice Chairman Jay Y. Lee leaves Sunday for Canada, US business trip
Samsung Vice Chairman Jay Y. Lee leaves Sunday for Canada, US business trip

Jay Y. Lee, vice chairman and de facto leader of South Korea’s top conglomerate Samsung, has embarked on a business trip to North America to finalize the group’s plan to build another chip plant in the US and discuss COVID-19 vaccines with Moderna Inc.

Lee, who left the Gimpo airport near Seoul on Sunday morning, will head to Canada for a visit to Samsung’s artificial intelligence research center in Toronto before flying to the US, according to industry officials.

He will not be accompanied by his aides and other executives on his trip to Canada and the US, according to Samsung.

While in the US, he will meet with business leaders to finalize Samsung Electronics Co.'s 20 trillion won ($17 billion) project to build a new semiconductor foundry plant.

Taylor, a city in Texas' Williamson County, near Austin where the company’s current foundry facilities are located, is the most likely site for the new plant, but areas such as Phoenix, Arizona and upstate New York are also among candidates.

Samsung's Jay Y. Lee visits ASML in the Netherlands
Samsung's Jay Y. Lee visits ASML in the Netherlands

Samsung has been ramping up its investment in the US to better compete against foundry rivals such as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), which announced earlier this year its plan to spend $12 billion until 2024 to build advanced foundry facilities in the US.

Lee’s US trip comes as global chipmakers are under pressure by the US administration to disclose internal information, even industrial secrets, as part of efforts to tackle the global chip shortage.

Lee could meet with US government officials and politicians to further explain Samsung’s chip business, according to industry sources.

Korea’s top business leaders recently made US trips while their companies moved to newly open their Washington offices to deal with regulatory and government issues as getting a firm handle on US policy trends and networking have become crucial to doing business in the US.

Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine
Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine

COVID VACCINE

During his stay in the US, Lee is also expected to visit Moderna’s headquarters in Boston to discuss vaccine supply issues.

Samsung’s pharmaceutical affiliate, Samsung Biologics Co., is in partnership with Moderna to make vaccines for the US company under a contract manufacturing organization (CMO) service.

Last month, Samsung Biologics said its Moderna COVID vaccine produced in Korea will also be consumed for use in Korea.

Lee’s latest North American trip marks his first international trip since his release on parole in August. He was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison in January during a retrial of a bribery case involving former President Park Geun-hye.

His US visit also represents his first US trip in five years.

Write to Shin-Young Park at nyusos@hankyung.com

In-Soo Nam edited this article.

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