(ATTN: ADDS details in 2nd para; REPLACES photo with ceremony photos)
By Woo Jae-yeon
SEOUL, Nov. 16 (Yonhap) -- ASML, a Dutch chip equipment maker, on Wednesday held a groundbreaking ceremony of its new semiconductor cluster in South Korea, home to the world's two biggest memory chip makers.
The Dutch firm is building a US$181 million chip cluster in Hwaseong, some 40 kilometers south of Seoul, which will include a local repair center, training center, R&D center for repair parts, and education and experience center.
The construction is expected to be completed by the end of 2024.
The ceremony was attended by ASML President and CEO Peter Wennink, Gyeonggi Gov. Kim Dong-yeon and other senior South Korean officials.
At a press conference a day before, Wennink said the new campus will serve as a stepping stone for his company to continue its robust growth, by allowing it to closely collaborate with its local partners and to build a bigger customer base and stronger chip supply chain.
The Hwaseong cluster will offer the company a "stronger foothold" in South Korea that has a "high level of innovation and technical competence," as well as a great potential to "grow our supply base," he said.
Wennink hinted that the spending on the new cluster -- one of the largest in size for the company's overseas investments -- could grow further down the road.
"It's just the beginning. ... We've just started," he said.
The Dutch firm is the world's sole producer of extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography machines, critical to making advanced chips.
Samsung Electronics Co. and SK hynix Inc. are among the ASML's biggest clients. South Korea accounted for 33.4 percent of ASML's total net sales in 2021, up from 29.7 percent the previous year, according to the company.
In September, Samsung began operations of its new chip manufacturing line, P3, in Pyeongtaek, 65 km south of Seoul. It is the largest chip manufacturing facility ever built to date by Samsung and is equipped with ASML's EUV machines.
Wennink is expected to meet Samsung Electronics Executive Chairman Lee Jae-yong while visiting the country to discuss ways to strengthen business cooperation between the two chip companies.
"We talked about the business clearly, and about the business environment, which, of course, is a very broad set of subjects," he told reporters during the press briefing.
"We've known each other for many years. So there's also some personal conversation because we know each other well."
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