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Business

South Korean corporate leaders play wingman for Moon

Companies announce $12.8bn investment in US ahead of Trump summit

South Korean President Moon Jae-in speaks at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington on June 28.

WASHINGTON Top South Korean companies have said they will pour $12.8 billion into the U.S. over the next five years, handing President Moon Jae-in powerful leverage going into his first talks with counterpart Donald Trump.

After arriving in the U.S., Moon attended a U.S.-South Korean business leaders' meeting at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on June 28, accompanied by executives representing 52 companies. He sat flanked by corporate VIPs, including SK Holdings Chairman Chey Tae-won, Hyundai Motor Vice Chairman Chung Eui-sun and LG group Vice Chairman Koo Bon-joon.

SK said it would partner with U.S. companies General Electric and Continental Resources in shale gas exploration and production. The South Korean company will invest a maximum of $4.4 billion over five years. The company will also start importing U.S.-produced liquefied natural and petroleum gases in 2020.

Samsung Electronics also formally announced on June 28 that it will spend $380 million to build a home appliance factory in South Carolina. The conglomerate also plans to pour $1.5 billion into a Texas semiconductor plant through 2020. LG Electronics will follow suit with its own $250 million appliance factory in Tennessee.

PATCHING THINGS UP Moon's government tried to keep its distance from the meeting, which it called a business matter. But in fact, the South Korean government appears to have worked with its own Chamber of Commerce and Industry to time the announcements of already planned investments in a way that gave Moon the greatest boost before his summit with Trump.

With their show of cooperation, the corporate titans were apparently hoping to repair what has been a strained relationship with Moon since he took office in May. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce event was the president's first meeting with them since his inauguration.

Moon was elected promising to reform the chaebol, South Korea's powerful, family-run conglomerates, and has taken a stern line toward them. He assailed the Korea Employers Federation business lobby through a spokesman, saying it should "take a period of sincere soul-searching and self-reflection," as quoted by the Yonhap News Agency, for contributing to social polarization through the expansion of irregular, precarious employment.

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