South Korean leader to ink deal in Budapest

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The government is currently discussing investments with 14 South Korean companies, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said after meeting his opposite number Chung Eui-yong and Trade Minister Yeo Han-koo in Paris on Wednesday. President Moon Jae-in will next month become the first South Korean head of state to visit Hungary in 20 years, when the countries will sign strategic agreements on health care, diplomatic training and culture, he added.

South Korea is the fourth largest corporate investor in Hungary, and has helped make the CEE country the world’s fifth largest electric-vehicle (EV) battery exporter, according to Szijjarto. Hungary will also be one of the first five countries to sign a strategic agreement with South Korea, having provided financial support for investments to 31 South Korean companies since 2015, he said. 

Amongst the biggest South Korean investors in Hungary is SK Innovation, which supplies batteries to carmakers including Audi, Volkswagen and Daimler. The company entered Hungary in 2019 by investing around USD 316 million in the construction of two EV battery-manufacturing units in Komarom, northern Hungary, which now employ some 1,300 people. Then in January 2021, SK Innovation announced Hungary’s largest ever greenfield investment of USD 2.29 billion. Built on 70 hectares in Ivancsa, 60km south of Budapest, the plant will create 2,500 jobs and enable the production of around 430,000 electric cars per year.

Hungary is also being considered for a joint European venture between Ford and SK Innovation, wrote last month, with Romania and Poland other candidate locations. Even in 2020, the year of the global Covid outbreak, bilateral trade volumes grew by 28%, and are expected to rise by 26% this year, Szijjarto added.