The Korea Herald


ASM determined to expand investment in Korea: CEO

Dutch chip equipment giant to boost R&D capacity in Korea, home to key clients Samsung, SK

By Jo He-rim

Published : May 23, 2023 - 15:33

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ASM President and CEO Benjamin Loh speaks at a press conference in Seoul on Tuesday. (ASM Korea) ASM President and CEO Benjamin Loh speaks at a press conference in Seoul on Tuesday. (ASM Korea)

ASM, a global supplier of semiconductor wafer processing equipment, will break ground on its second headquarters in South Korea Wednesday, under expansion plans to boost research and production capacity of an advanced chip processing equipment solution it produces only in the country.

Underscoring how South Korea already has the company’s third-biggest R&D and manufacturing facilities after the United States and Singapore, ASM President and CEO Benjamin Loh vowed to further invest to expand production in the country.

“The latest investment carries more meaning for the company than expanding the facility. It is not only our promise to South Korea, but is also our determination to continue to grow our business here,” Loh said during the company’s first press conference in Seoul. ASM Korea CEO Kim Yong-gil was also present at the event.

The Dutch company has pledged to invest $100 million in the coming years under an agreement signed with Korea's Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy in February.

The new innovation manufacturing center in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi Province, where its first headquarters is located, will be in charge of developing and manufacturing plasma enhanced atomic layer deposition (PEALD). PEALD, which is used across all memory products, such as DRAM, 3D NAND and logic chips, is a solution the company specializes in and only produces in Korea, Loh said.

“The expansion (with the new building) is really for this specific product (PEALD), which we see and expect an increasing demand over the next couple of years,” the CEO said.

The company has been specializing in the product in Korea since 2004, when it acquired local PEALD company Genitech Korea. The global chip equipment supplier established its first Korean affiliate in 1995.

With the second headquarters, the company would be doubling R&D space and tripling its manufacturing space. The company also expects to hire some 200 more employees over the next three to five years, Loh added.

During the press conference, Loh also predicted the global chip industry will recover from the severe downturn it's experiencing now, as the industry has always been “cyclical” and that it is “always going up” in the longer term.

When asked about competition with Korean equipment companies, the ASM chief underscored that local firms will have to make "very significant effort" to catch up with the R&D capabilities it has built over the past two decades.

Having Samsung Electronics and SK hynix in its list of industry-leading clients, ASM will also continue to work closely with Korean firms, the CEO added.

“I think it is very important that we have large customers here, but that they are also leaders in technology and in the equipment that we supply," Loh said.