Kim Gyu-sik and Minu Kim
Jay Y. Lee, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics and de facto head of Korea's top conglomerate Samsung Group made his first visit to Saudi Arabia during the Chuseok, or mid-autumn festival, holiday last week as part of the group's efforts to seek new opportunities in the Oil Kingdom working to lessen over-reliance on its oil riches for more balanced growth.
The main purpose of his visit to Saudi Arabia was to check on Samsung C&T's subway construction project in the country's capital Riyadh, according to the company on Sunday. It marks not only Lee's first publicized visit to the Middle East country but also to an overseas Samsung construction site. Lee has been making more business trips since the group came under multiple challenges on the trade front from August.
During his stay in Saudi Arabia, Lee visited Samsung C&T employees on the construction site to encourage them working over the holiday period in Korea. "The Middle East is becoming a new land of opportunities in the 21st century as it is pursuing projects other than oil," he was quoted as saying.
The metro project scheduled for completion by 2021 includes the construction of six rail lines that stretch 168 kilometers across the Saudi Arabian capital. A consortium of Samsung C&T and France's Alstom is responsible for three metro lines.
The metro building is one of many non-oil sector projects the Middle Eastern kingdom is carrying out. Saudi Arabia under the plan of Saudi Vision 2030 aims to reduce its heavy dependence on oil and diversify its economy.
Lee has reportedly asked for a moment with Saudi's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during his stay. The prince met Lee in Seoul in June during his visit to Korea, and they discussed various ways to promote cooperation in multiple business projects such as 5G, artificial intelligence and Internet of Things.
Lee is expected to move onto Europe or North America from Saudi Arabia for AI research ventures.