The Korea Herald


Yoon departs for Amsterdam for regional security, chip cooperation

Yoon's 5-day visit to Netherlands is final overseas trip of 2023

By Son Ji-hyoung

Published : Dec. 11, 2023 - 15:03

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President Yoon Suk Yeol (right) and first lady Kim Keon Hee embark on Air Force One, as the couple departed Seoul Air Base in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province, to fly to the Netherlands for a state visit on Monday. (Yonhap) President Yoon Suk Yeol (right) and first lady Kim Keon Hee embark on Air Force One, as the couple departed Seoul Air Base in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province, to fly to the Netherlands for a state visit on Monday. (Yonhap)

President Yoon Suk Yeol and first lady Kim Keon Hee flew to the Netherlands on Monday at the invitation of King Willem-Alexander, in a bid to strengthen bilateral semiconductor supply chain cooperation and to enhance the European nation's involvement in Indo-Pacific regional security, in what will be the president's last trip to a foreign country this year.

Yoon is the first South Korean president to pay a state visit to the Netherlands since the two countries forged diplomatic relations in 1961. Yoon's departure was attended by Interior Minister Lee Sang-min, First Vice Foreign Minister Chang Ho-jin, People Power Party Chairman Rep. Kim Gi-hyeon and, presidential chief of staff Kim Dae-ki, among others.

The trip comes on the back of the president's recent visit to the UK and is part of his continued efforts to turn the attention of his European partners toward the Indo-Pacific region amid growing North Korean hostilities.

The Netherlands was the third European Union member country to have laid out its own Indo-Pacific strategy in November 2020 to tackle challenges in the fields of climate change, international security, cybersecurity, maritime security and more.

Meanwhile, South Korea is becoming of increasing importance to Amsterdam as a trade partner, alongside other Asian partners like Taiwan. From 2019 to 2021, the value of Dutch exports to South Korea rose 97 percent to 8.6 billion euros ($9.3 billion), with about 20 percent of Dutch specialized machinery exports going to Korea, according to data from Dutch trade authorities.

Upon his arrival, Yoon on Tuesday is to be received by Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima in a welcoming ceremony at the Royal Palace in Amsterdam. There, Yoon is expected to inspect the Dutch guard of honor and have a private lunch with the king and queen.

Yoon will also lay a wreath at the national monument in Dam Square in Amsterdam. The Netherlands sent more than 5,000 soldiers to take part in the 1950-1953 Korean War to fight against North Korea; 120 of them are estimated to have been killed.

Later Tuesday, Yoon is to move to Veldhoven, some 110 kilometers south of Amsterdam, for a guided tour of the headquarters of ASML, which manufactures chipmaking machines and supplies them to international chip manufacturers, including South Korea's Samsung Electronics and SK hynix.

Yoon will be granted access to ASML's site where he can inspect the manufacturing process of the newest lithography machines set for launch next year. Yoon will also visit ASML's cleanroom -- a facility where the manufacturing environment is strictly controlled -- becoming the first foreign head of state to do so.

ASML manufactures the lithography equipment that handles some of the world's most advanced extreme ultraviolet technology, which is critical for global chipmakers to make microchips on 7-nanometer or more advanced nodes.

Yoon's tour will be accompanied by King Willem-Alexander, ASML Chief Executive Officer Peter Wennink and South Korean-based entrepreneurs Lee Jae-yong, executive chairman of chips-to-mobile giant Samsung Electronics, and Chey Tae-won, the chairman of SK Group that oversees DRAM maker SK hynix and NAND flash maker Solidigm, formerly an asset of US electronics giant Intel.

Kim Tae-hyo, first deputy chief of the presidential National Security Office, said in a briefing Thursday that Seoul's new chip deal with Amsterdam could not only "magnify bilateral complementarity," but also contribute to advancing the capabilities of South Korea's domestic defense industry, which Seoul says is dependent on the imported semiconductor chips.

ASML employees assemble a machine inside a clean room at the company's headquarters in Veldhoven, the Netherlands. (ASML) ASML employees assemble a machine inside a clean room at the company's headquarters in Veldhoven, the Netherlands. (ASML)

Pathways for a chip alliance in academics will also be discussed.

Park Chun-sup, Yoon's senior secretary for economic affairs, said Thursday that Seoul, along with the South Korean delegation of the chipmaking ecosystem, will join hands with Amsterdam to stave off supply chain disruption, nurture talents in the chipmaking industry and lay out joint research and development projects.

Park identified the Netherlands as home to a rich semiconductor ecosystem backed by industry-academia collaboration, putting together lithography machine supplier ASML, semiconductor deposition machine supplier ASM, automotive chip designer NXP Semiconductors as well as Eindhoven University of Technology, Delft University of Technology and Interuniversity Microelectronics Center.

Returning to the Royal Palace in Amsterdam later Tuesday, Yoon will head to a state banquet hosted by Willem-Alexander and Maxima to wrap up his second day of the state visit.

On Wednesday, Yoon will go to The Hague to visit the Dutch parliament and hold talks with Jan Anthonie Bruijn, president of the Senate, as well as Roelien Kamminga, acting president of the House of Representatives.

Yoon will later meet Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte at the Binnenhof complex in The Hague. Yoon's meeting with Rutte will mark his third since taking office in May 2022. They last met in Seoul, as Rutte visited South Korea in November 2022 to upgrade their bilateral ties to a "strategic partnership."

According to the Dutch Royal House, Yoon and Rutte will "discuss various matters concerning the strategic partnership between the countries, including economic security and stability in the Indo-Pacific region."

Kim earlier said that their bilateral partnership will be taken to the next level, with their focus on diplomatic security through shared values and economic security based on cutting-edge technologies.

Moreover, South Korea and the Netherlands will collaborate in areas including clean energy, nuclear energy, offshore wind, logistics systems, artificial intelligence, quantum technology, biotechnology and smart agriculture, according to Yoon's office.

Yoon on Wednesday will move on to visit Ridderzaal in honor of Yi Jun, a South Korean envoy in the twilight of the Joseon era who died suddenly after his failed attempt to attend the World Peace Conference in The Hague in 1907. Yi then sought support from the international community to fight the imminent threat of Japan's colonization, which was realized three years later and lasted for over three decades.

After meeting with Dutch veterans of the Korean War, Yoon will deliver a speech at a business forum before some 200 business leaders from South Korea and the Netherlands. Yoon's third day of the state visit will wrap up with a dinner event Yoon hosted for Willem-Alexander at AFAS Live in Amsterdam, featuring classical Korean music with a dance performance.

Departing from Amsterdam on Thursday, Yoon is returning to Seoul on Friday.

Besides his trip to the Netherlands, Yoon earlier this year went to the United Arab Emirates, the US, Vietnam and the United Kingdom for state visits.