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South Korea conglomerate to expand carbon fiber output 12-fold

Hyosung aims to reduce reliance on Japanese material as relations sour

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, center, on Tuesday visited the carbon fiber plant that Hyosung plans to sharply expand. (Photo courtesy of South Korean Office of the President)

SEOUL -- South Korean conglomerate Hyosung will spend 1 trillion won ($825 million) to boost its carbon fiber production capacity 12-fold, with the government pledging its full support as it works to reduce the country's dependence on Japanese materials.

Hyosung will expand a carbon fiber plant in the southwestern city of Jeonju, adding nine production lines to increase annual capacity to 24,000 tons from about 2,000 tons now, according to the plan announced Tuesday. The project is slated for completion by 2028.

Hyosung is a major player in spandex and tire cords, but it lags well behind Japanese rivals in carbon fiber. The conglomerate aims to boost its global market share to 10%, which would vault it into third place.

Carbon fiber is on a government list of 100 strategic goods for which South Korea relies heavily on imports from Japan, drawn up in response to Tokyo's decision this month to remove Seoul from a list of trusted trading partners. Seoul has said it looks to have more of these and other products sourced domestically or from a broader range of foreign suppliers.

Carbon fiber is used in hydrogen tanks for fuel cell vehicles, which the government is positioning as a growth field.

The government "will support development of strong, elastic carbon fiber and cultivate an ecosystem for our domestic carbon fiber industry," South Korean President Moon Jae-in said at an event Tuesday to mark the official signing of Hyosung's investment plans.

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