By Khanh Vu
HANOI (Reuters) – Samsung Electronics has started building a $220 million research and development center in Vietnam, the South Korean tech giant’s local unit said on Monday.
But a ground-breaking ceremony, scheduled for this past Saturday, was canceled because of a virus outbreak that led to travel restrictions on South Koreans, Hong Sun, the vice chairman of Korea Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam, told Reuters.
A Samsung Electronics spokeswoman confirmed the cancellation, but did not provide any other details.
Construction of the center in Hanoi will be completed by the end of 2022, Samsung Vietnam said in a statement, adding that the center will employ between 2,200 and 3,000 people.
Samsung is the single largest foreign investor in Vietnam, with investments totaling $17 billion, it said.
The center as planned would be the largest of its kind in Southeast Asia and will enhance the company’s research capability in such areas as artificial intelligence, internet of things, big data and 5G, it said.
The Vietnamese government earlier on Monday announced the commencement of building of the R&D center.
Vietnam’s exports of smartphones and spare parts, mostly produced by Samsung Electronics, rose 4.4% last year to $51.38 billion, according to government customs data.
Vietnam said on Friday it will suspend visa-free travel for South Koreans starting on Saturday, Feb. 29, amid concerns about the coronavirus spreading.
Last week, Vietnam banned tourists from coronavirus-hit areas of South Korea. South Korea accounted for a quarter of Vietnam’s 18 million tourists last year, the second-biggest group after Chinese visitors.
(Reporting by Khanh Vu; Additional reporting by Hyunjoo Jin in Seoul; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Tom Hogue)