The President of the Government of Catalonia,Pere Aragonès i Garcia, met this Thursday in Seoul with several South Korean companies that have interests in Catalonia, such as Lotte Energy Materials, the company that will make an investment in Mont-roig del Camp to manufacture a component for electric batteries.
“In Asia as a whole, Korea is a priority country,”remarked the president, who announced that the Catalan Government will promote a specific plan of measures for the Korean market, largely centred on foreign economic production, with the aim of“increasing investment in and exports by Catalan companies”. It is a plan that will last three years, from 2024 to 2027, with the possibility of being extended, and about which Aragonès has expressed his conviction that it“will make it possible to increase figures that are already very good”, taking into account that“in 2022, Catalan exports to Korea grew by more than 18%”and that, currently,“700 Catalan companies export to Korea at a value of more than 630 million euros”.
“There is interest in Catalonia, there is passion for our culture and our way of being, and there is recognition of the Catalan economy as a technologically leading economy, with a strong industrial base and a workforce that has a very good work ethic,”the President stated.
On the fourth and last day of the President’s institutional trip to the Republic of Korea, focused on business meetings, Aragonès visited Signiel Seoul in Lotte World Tower, the company’s headquarters, and met with some of its executives.
Speaking to the media after the meeting, Aragonès stressed that Lotte’s investment in Mont-roig“is a strategic investment for the Catalan Government”that has been in the works for many months and is sure to “lead to new opportunities”.“This investment will go well, which will set a very good example for the rest of the large Korean companies, who, once they see that an investment of this magnitude takes place in Catalonia and is successful, because there is talent, opportunities and access to the European market, we are convinced that many more will follow”.
The President confirmed that the investment in Mont-roig is already“planned” and that “the full investment of 1.2 billion euros will come through, which will create 600 jobs”. It is a business decision that“does nothing more than ratify the good work being done” and which is possible, said Aragonès,“because we have a clear road map, which is the Catalan Agreement on Industry”, together with a budget, that of 2023, which “is the one that has allocated the most money to industrial policy” and the resources of the NextGenerationEU funds.
“Our objective is to create quality jobs and opportunities,” added the President, who stressed that, after years of economic monoculture in many areas of the country, as in the case of tourism in Camp de Tarragona, a balance must now be sought:“Betting on industrial development is what should allow us to be much more resilient and to have an economy that is not simply based on the service sector, but on a strong industrial economy”.
Lotte Energy Materials is one of the largest conglomerates in Korea. In March 2023 it acquired Iljin Materials, the company that in 2022 announced an investment in Mont-roig del Camp of 600 million euros. Lotte Energy Materials is developing this project to build a plant in Mont-roig del Camp to manufacture elecfoil, an essential component for electric vehicle batteries. The planned investment of 1.2 billion euros represents the largest industrial investment in the last 20 years in Catalonia by a company that did not previously have a presence.
Hyundai and Naver
On Thursday, the President also met with executives from the Hyundai car company. Aragonès visited the Hyundai Motorstudio facilities in the city of Goyang to learn about the company’s car manufacturing process. During the meeting, they discussed the possibilities for the use of hydrogen in the field of freight transport as well as in public transport.“We have agreed to work on shared projects in the future to study new possibilities for the use of hydrogen in the public transport extension projects that we the Government of Catalonia are currently carrying out,” explained the President.
During the day, President Aragonès also visited Naver’s facilities and met with its CEO,Soo-yeon Choi, to learn about the company’s operations and exchange experiences in the field of technology and innovation. Naver is a technology company that operates the Republic of Korea’s leading search portal and is popularly known as the “Korean Google”.
Economic relations between Catalonia and the Republic of Korea
The Republic of Korea has been one of Catalonia’s main economic partners in Asia, especially since Korean business investment in Catalonia in the 1980s and 1990s.
In fact, the Republic of Korea is the third Asian country with the highest volume of foreign investment in Catalonia, behind only Japan and China, and the ninth country in the world that has invested the most in Catalonia in the last five years.
In the last ten years, Catalonia has attracted 614 million euros of foreign investment from South Korea, mainly in sectors such as chemicals, plastics, ICT, electronics, video games and freight logistics.
As for Catalan exports to Korea, they have tripled in the last decade, reaching 636.9 million euros in 2022, with a year-on-year growth of 18.4%, the highest figure in the historical series. There are some 700 Catalan companies that regularly export to the Republic of Korea, mainly meat, pharmaceuticals and plastics.
Moreover, in the last ten years Korean companies have doubled their exports to Catalonia, reaching 1.65 billion euros in 2022. The Republic of Korea is Catalonia’s 16th largest supplier country, mainly importing vehicles, organic chemicals and plastics.