Thursday, 14 January 2010

Solar energy, LEDs brighten up Sejong
January 13, 2010

Massive investments by large conglomerates are expected to help Sejong City, to be built from scratch, turn into a high-tech production and research base, government and industry officials said yesterday. Samsung Group, Hanwha Group, Woongjin Group and Lotte Group plan to pour a combined 4.4 trillion won into the city to build manufacturing and research facilities.

The government yesterday announced plans to make Sejong City, located about 150 kilometers south of Seoul, an "international science and business belt" with 17 trillion won of new investments in the next 20 years. Samsung, the country's biggest business group, said it will spend close to $2 billion by 2015 on "green energy and health care," which include solar cells, light-emitting diodes and medical equipment. Five Samsung affiliates will take part, including Samsung Electronics, Samsung Electro-Mechanics, Samsung SDI and Samsung LED.

"Samsung Group has explored new business areas since we set up a business team in December 2007. And we picked green energy and health care as next-generation businesses," Kim Soon-taek, Samsung's vice chairman in charge of the company's new business team, said at a press conference yesterday.

Samsung Electronics, the flagship unit of Samsung Group is the world's top maker of memory chips, liquid crystal display panels and LCD TVs. It is the world's No. 2 handset maker. Samsung Electronics CEO Choi Gee-sung last year vowed to develop "health, environment, and life care" as Samsung Electronics' two major businesses along with "infotainment" in 10 years. Kim denied speculation that Samsung declined to participate in the government-led Sejong City project in exchange for Seoul's recent pardon of Samsung Group's biggest shareholder and ex-chief, Lee Kun-hee.

Kim said Samsung's latest investment decision was made because "investment conditions were favorable." Of the total investment, 1.1 trillion won will go to solar cells, rechargeable batteries and LEDs, while 330 billion won will be spent on cutting-edge medical equipment, he said. Samsung's investment is expected to create 15,800 jobs, Samsung said. Hanwha Group plans to invest a combined 1.3 trillion won on solar cell and military businesses over the next decade.

Hanwha Chemical is eyeing investments of 1 trillion won for a solar energy R&D center, and solar cell and module manufacturing plants by 2020. Including Hanwha Chemical, four Hanwha affiliates will invest in Sejong City. Hanwha Corp, plans to build a research center on future defense technology. With the investment, Hanwha is expected to create 3,000 new jobs.

Woongjin Group, whose business portfolio ranges from publishing to water purifiers, plans to invest 900 billion won in, aiming to create 2,700 jobs. Woojin Engergy plans to build a manufacturing plant for solar ingots and wafers. Woongjing Group has been long rumored to be planning Sejong City investments because of the group's close ties to the Chungcheong region.

Lotte Group, a retail and beverage conglomerate, plans to spend 100 billion won to set up a food biotechnology research center by 2020. The project is expected to create 1,000 jobs. SSF of Austria, a manufacturer of solar energy cell modules, plans to spend 138 billion won on a Sejong City venture, making it the sole foreign investor so far.


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