Chances that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un would visit Samsung Electronics’ smartphone factory in Vietnam appear to be slim, according to sources close to the matter.
“Not only does North Korea require permission from the South, nothing is being discussed in this regard,” said one industry watcher. A Samsung official confirmed with The Investor on Feb. 18 that the company also has not received requests from either North Korea or Vietnam.
The Seoul government, however, remains mum on the issue.
South Korea's President Moon Jae-in (left) and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
Speculation about a possible visit to the Samsung site arose after senior North Korean officials last week reportedly visited Bac Ninh, a Vietnamese city in which the smartphone manufacturing facilities are located. Samsung rolls out some 200 million smartphone units, nearly the half of its entire global smartphone production volume, at the Bac Ninh factory.
A more likely scenario is that Kim will inspect the Bac Ninh industrial complex, instead of visiting a single manufacturing factory operated by Samsung. News outlet Reuters predicted that Kim would pay a visit to Bac Ninh as well as the industrial port town of Hai Phong, where Korean tech companies, including LG Electronics, are running manufacturing factories.
For the time being, LG said it has not been notified of a visit of North Korean high-rank officials.
The leader of the hermit nation, which has increasingly been making efforts to recover ties with the international community, will have meetings with US President Donald Trump from Feb. 27 to 28 in Hanoi.
When President Moon Jae-in visited Pyongyang last September, Samsung Group chairman Lee Jae-yong, SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won, and LG Group Chairman Koo Kwang-mo were included in the delegation of South Korean business people. After the state visit, some market watchers speculated that conglomerates in the South could consider initiating, or resuming, projects to prepare for economic cooperation between the two Koreas.
The North has also signalled that it wanted the business leaders to be more committed to making efforts for economic cooperation during the summit last year.
Following the thawing inter-Korean relations, some of the business giants, including Hyundai Asan and SK Group, have set up task forces under their affiliates to seek business opportunities in the North.
By Kim Young-won (firstname.lastname@example.org)