S. Korea warns of challenge from Chinese chip and battery makers: Yonhap

Lim Chang-won Reporter Posted : 2018-06-08 13:19 Updated : 2018-06-08 13:19
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[Courtesy of China's Baidu]

SEOUL -- South Korean chip and battery makers should brace for rising challenges as China is stepping up efforts to foster its own industry to reduce its reliance on imports, Seoul's industry minister said Friday.

Paik Un-gyu, minister of trade, industry and energy, shared the concerns with representatives of local chip and battery makers after returning from his trip to Beijing earlier this week.

"South Korean companies have the leading technology in the rechargeable battery and semiconductor sectors. As first movers, it is time to create strategies to maintain the lead from the pursuers," the policymaker said in a meeting with senior officials from Samsung Electronics Co., SK hynix Inc., LG Chem Inc. and Samsung SDI Co.

"The Chinese government is making efforts to develop its semiconductor industry as the inbound shipment of memory chips far surpassed that of crude oil," Paik said. "Korean battery makers are threatened as China is acquiring the secondary battery technology from its giant electric vehicle market and fostering domestic manufacturers."

Paik said the government will collaborate with local industries to cope with regulatory moves in China, while expanding investment for research and development of next-generation technologies to tackle the challenges.

"The government will expand investment in the research and investment in the next-generation battery technology and foster the ecosystem for electric vehicle market," he said. During his China visit Tuesday, Paik called on China to fairly carry out an antitrust probe into two Korean chipmakers as its regulators are reportedly looking into their alleged price fixing.

China's antitrust agency has been checking South Korea's Samsung Electronics and SK hynix and the U.S.' Micron Technology amid the continuing rally in memory chip prices. The three companies together control more than 90 percent of the global DRAM market. While the Chinese government hasn't formally announced what they are investigating, industry observers see the move as aimed at driving down prices of memory chips and pressuring Washington amid trade disputes.