Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong speaks during a press meeting on May 6, 2020, in Seoul. He invited Hyundai Executive Vice Chairman Chung Eui-sun to a Samsung unit’s factory to talk about possible cooperation. Photo by Jeong Byung-hyuk/UPI News Korea

Chiefs of Korea’s top two chaebol have first one-on-one biz meeting

As South Korea’s two representative business conglomerates, Samsung Group and Hyundai Group have competed to take the top position over the past half-century.

Thus far, the two groups have hardly cooperated. But the novel COVID-19 coronavirus makes the two fierce cross-town rivals join hands to deal with the economic aftermaths of the pandemic.

De facto chiefs of the two outfits held a meeting of late at a Samsung SDI’s electric vehicle battery factory in Cheonan, about 50 miles south of Seoul, the two companies said.

Samsung Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong invited Hyundai Executive Vice Chairman Chung Eui-sun to hold their first one-on-one business meeting at a time when the two groups suffer from the virus-generated economic downturn.

The former is a grandson of Samsung founder Lee Byung-chul while the latter is a grandson of Hyundai founder Chung Ju-yung. Their fathers are alive, but the third-generation businessmen are practically leading the respective group.

The two shared ways of how to collaborate in high-end batteries for futuristic electric cars, on which Samsung SDI works, Samsung and Hyundai officials said.

Hyundai badly needs a stable supply of quality batteries as the Seoul-based automaker plans to roll out more than 20 new electric vehicle models by 2025.

In particular, the two tycoons talked about all-solid-state battery technology, which Samsung SDI has developed.

Compared to conventional lithium-ion batteries, all-solid-state batteries are safer while promising better energy density because they take advantage of solid electrolytes, according to Samsung.

Up until now, Hyundai Motor and its sister company Kia Motors mostly used batteries supplied by LG and SK, two other big South Korean conglomerates.

Hyundai needs best-performing batteries for our electric cars. Chung’s visit this week was about discussing next-generation batteries and new technology,” a Hyundai official told UPI News Korea.

Samsung’s all-solid-state battery technology is a structurally strong and stabilized next-generation technology. We expect that both groups will join hands to achieve innovation in the mobility area,” a Samsung official said.