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Yoon starts Dutch state visit, eyeing stronger ties in chips, logistics, AI

Korea sets sights on establishing cold storage center in Rotterdam by 2027

Dec. 12, 2023 - 14:34 By Son Ji-hyoung
President Yoon Suk Yeol (third from right) and King Willem-Alexander (second from right) greet a group of overseas Koreans after an inspection of the Dutch guard of honor as part of a welcome ceremony at Dam Square in Amsterdam, Tuesday. (Yonhap)

President Yoon Suk Yeol arrived Monday in Amsterdam to forge stronger bilateral ties with the Netherlands, South Korea's emerging European trade partner in terms of semiconductor chips, logistics and artificial intelligence cooperation.

During the five-day state visit, South Korea is set to ink a project deal to deploy its cold chain logistics technology in Europe. Moreover, South Korea laid out a plan with the Netherlands to nurture 500 semiconductor experts over the next five years, and establish a 1-trillion-won ($761.9 million) joint project for research related to advanced chips in the race for strategic assets.

By 2027, the state-run Busan Port Authority is poised to build a cold chain logistics center on leased land in the Port of Rotterdam, the world's 10th-largest container port by container throughput. Busan is ranked 6th in terms of the volume of containers handled in its seaports.

Park Chun-sup, Yoon's senior secretary for economic affairs, said in a briefing that Rotterdam "is facing an urgent need to strengthen its cold storage capacity," with the throughput of temperature-sensitive goods at the Port of Rotterdam expected to rise fourfold by 2030 from the current level. Moreover, the new cold storage facility built by Korea will "contribute to the growth of South Korea's food exports and to the cost savings of businesses involved."

The move comes amid Europe's growing interest in Korean food products, Park added. About 30 percent of South Korean export items to Europe enter the European continent via the Rotterdam Port.

A bird's eye view of Busan Port. (Busan Port Authority)

Specifically, South Korean exports of instant ramen have seen a sharp rise in some European countries like the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, contributing to the surge in annual Korean food exports in 2022 to the UK by 4.4 percent and to the Netherlands by 15 percent, according to data from the state-run Korea Agro-Fisheries and Food Trade Corp. In addition, the European Union eased import regulations on Korean instant ramen in July.

In exchange, Busan Port will adopt Dutch logistics automation capabilities, under the agreement between the port authorities of Busan and Rotterdam. According to Park, Dutch automated transport solutions provider VDL has already established a presence in the modernization of Busan Port.

This agreement will be one of several signed after Yoon's summit with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Wednesday, centering on artificial technology and quantum technology, among other next-generational technologies, Park added.

Under the 1-trillion-won project, South Korean chipmaking giant Samsung Electronics and Dutch semiconductor lithography machine supplier ASML are set to build a research center dedicated to advanced chips, according to the Trade Ministry.

The two countries also agreed to nurture 500 semiconductor experts from 2024 to 2028, through exchange programs involving South Korea's Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology and Sungkyunkwan University, as well as the Netherlands’ Eindhoven University of Technology.

This photo shows a semiconductor wafer with President Yoon Suk Yeol's signature on, marking his visit to the headquarters of semiconductor machine maker ASML in Veldhovem the Netherlands, on Tuesday. (Yonhap)

The announcements were made after Yoon arrived at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, donning an orange tie, at around 5:45 p.m. Two F-35 fighter jets escorted South Korea's Air Force One as it entered Netherlands airspace, according to Yoon's spokesperson Kim Soo-kyung.

Accompanying Yoon are Minister of Science and ICT Lee Jong-ho, Foreign Minister Park Jin, National Security Office Director Cho Tae-yong and Trade Minister Ahn Duk-geun.

Yoon is the first South Korean President to embark on a state visit to the Netherlands. The occasion also marks the 10th state visit hosted by King Willem-Alexander since his inauguration in 2013.

Upon his arrival, Yoon visited overseas Koreans at a hotel in Amsterdam. Before an audience of around 100 people, Yoon laid out the blueprint for stronger bilateral ties between Seoul and Amsterdam, with the new semiconductor chip alliance in focus.

"The visit will lay a cornerstone for the elevation of chip cooperation between South Korea and the Netherlands to the level of a chip alliance," Yoon said, adding that enhanced bilateral ties in the industry are "crucial in the field of security," as the two countries work to foster "a broader diplomatic horizon by cooperating in the field of strategic defense, regional security, and economic and cultural exchanges."

This photo shows a F-35 fighter jet escorting Air Force One as it entered the Dutch airspace on Monday. (Yonhap)

Yoon also highlighted the role of overseas Koreans in the nurturing of closer diplomatic ties. According to Yoon's office, about 10,000 Koreans are estimated to be living in the Netherlands, about seven decades after those studying theology or engineering set foot in the country for the first time.

On Tuesday, Yoon attended a welcome ceremony by Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima on Tuesday morning at Dam Square in Amsterdam, followed by an inspection of the Dutch guard of honors, a wreath-laying ceremony and a lunch with Willem-Alexander.

Yoon also traveled to Veldhoven in the southern part of the Netherlands to inspect the manufacturing facilities of semiconductor lithography machine supplier ASML, including a clean room, where the manufacturing environment is strictly controlled.

Yoon was accompanied by Samsung Electronics Executive Chairman Lee Jae-yong and SK Chairman Chey Tae-won.

Later on Tuesday, Yoon was to return to Amsterdam for a state banquet. At the event, Yoon plans to express Seoul's willingness to engage further in cooperation with the Netherlands in terms of semiconductors, nuclear power and digital prowess, spokesperson Kim said.