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The Korea Herald
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THE INVESTOR
April 24, 2024

Market Now

Samsung chief bolsters ties with Japanese partners

  • PUBLISHED :October 23, 2023 - 09:53
  • UPDATED :October 23, 2023 - 09:53
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Samsung Electronics Chairman Lee Jae-yong (right) reviews construction work at the site of the company's new R&D complex in Giheung, Gyeonggi Province, Thursday. (Samsung Electronics)

Samsung Electronics Executive Chairman Lee Jae-yong met with a group of top executives from Japanese electronic parts vendors for their annual meeting in Seoul, which had been suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to industry sources, Sunday.

The annual meeting between Samsung and its Japanese electronic parts makers is known as “Lee Kun-hee and his Japanese Friends,” or LJF for short. The meeting was established in 1993 by the executive chairman's father, the late Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-hee.

For this year’s meeting that marks its 30th anniversary, top executives from eight Japanese partners, including TDK, Murata Manufacturing and Alps Alpine, visited Seoul to attend.

Attendees from Samsung Group included Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Han Jong-hee, Samsung Electronics President and mobile business chief Roh Tae-moon, Network Business President Kim Woo-june, Samsung System LSI head Park Yong-in, Samsung Display CEO Choi Joo-sun, Samsung SDI CEO Choi Yoon-ho and Samsung C&T CEO Koh Jung-suk.

During the meeting, the Samsung chief reportedly spoke highly of their Japanese partners, saying their support has helped Samsung become a global top-tier company, sources said.

Lee added Samsung’s partnership with the LJF members is “essential” for its future, and they agreed to enhance cooperation as global economic uncertainty remains elevated.

“By succeeding the late Lee Kun-hee’s annual meeting LJF, Samsung Group Chairman Lee Jae-yong demonstrated his determination to improve the decadeslong ties between Samsung Group and its Japanese partners,” an industry source close to the matter said.

The partnership between Samsung Group and the Japanese counterparts remained unchanged over the last three decades even as the South Korean and Japanese governments have intermittently bickered over diplomatic

issues.

In July 2019, when the recent trade dispute between South Korea and Japan started, Lee visited Japan to meet with LJF members and top leaders of the Japanese economy. Three months later in October, Lee hosted the LJF meeting in Seoul on behalf of his father, who was hospitalized at the time.

Lee's network in Japan helped companies from the two countries maintain their business activities even after Seoul-Tokyo relations soured. Lee, who studied management at Keio University in Tokyo, is known to have an extensive personal network in Japan.

In September 2020, Lee met with Koji Tomita, who was Japan's ambassador to South Korea at the time, to ask Japan to ease entry restrictions for businesspeople. In the following month, both the South Korean and Japanese governments agreed to launch a fast-track entry system to allow for business activities without going through the quarantine process.

Lee took part in the Yoon Suk Yeol administration's efforts to mend soured ties, which began last year.

In July last year, Lee met with Masakazu Tokura, the chairman of Sumitomo Chemical who doubles as chairman of Keidanren, the Japan Business Federation. Lee also held a meeting with Toshiaki Higashihara, the chairman of Hitachi and vice chairman of Keidanren.

Lee's meetings last year became the groundwork for the Korea-Japan business roundtable organized by Keidanren, which Yoon also attended, along with other leaders of Korea's top five conglomerates.

By Shim Woo-hyun (ws@heraldcorp.com)

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