South Korean President Moon Jae-in invited CEOs of Samsung Electronics, Hyundai Motor, SK, LG to the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae and thanked them for their support and the excellent outcomes of the South Korea-U.S. summit. He thanked the four conglomerates for their decision to invest 44 trillion won in the U.S., which helped boost desirable outcomes of the summit in national security and North Korea issues. President Moon had invited leading entrepreneurs to Cheong Wa Dae in the first two years after his inauguration, but it was the first time to meet separately with the heads of the four conglomerates.
“It is meaningful that the area of cooperation between the two countries has grown more comprehensive to include global cooperation of high technology and manufacturing,” said Moon. “Some express concerns on expanding investment to the U.S., thinking that it would reduce domestic investment or job hiring. I think if large companies lead, this will pave the way for small and mid-sized companies as well. Pioneering exports of Korean parts and materials would eventually create more domestic jobs.”.
His remarks appear to be aimed at criticism on “losing thousands of high-quality jobs to the U.S,” when the four conglomerates were individually praised and thanked by U.S. President Joe Biden. Korean companies’ investment in the U.S. appears to be inevitable, given Washington’s policy to quickly build global supply chains that exclude China while encouraging “Buy American” campaign.”
There are still some risks in expanding U.S. cooperation in semiconductors, batteries and biotechnology. China, which is Korea’s largest trade partner and the largest market of the four conglomerates, may take action against Korea. Some labor unions oppose expansion to markets outside of Korea on grounds that they take away domestic jobs.
Given such factors, it would not be enough for President Moon to simply “thank” the companies. If the president has witnessed firsthand that corporate competitiveness eventually ties with national power at the Korea-U.S. Summit, he should build the foundation for Korean companies to invest freely and create jobs in the nation. This requires adjustments to allow leeway for the weekly 52-hour work week or penalizing companies for serious disasters. If the president continues to say empty words of thanks and continues to tighten regulations, it will be difficult to escape criticism that the government simply tries to take free rides on what businesses have accomplished.