China allows Samsung Elec staff to enter country for chip factory expansion

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Samsung Electronics is pictured at the company's factory in Tijuana, Mexico, June 1, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Duenes

SEOUL/BEIJING (Reuters) - China has allowed 200 employees from South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co Ltd to enter the country to work on an expansion of the firm’s NAND memory chip factory, the company said on Wednesday.

The move came after China said on Tuesday that it was in talks with some countries to establish fast-track procedures to allow travel by business and technical personnel to ensure the smooth operation of global supply chains.

China said it has reached a consensus on such an arrangement with South Korea, without elaborating on the terms, including whether individuals entering China will be subject to quarantine.

China, where the virus first emerged late last year, blocked entry last month for nearly all foreigners in an effort to curb risks of coronavirus infections posed by travellers from overseas. After bringing the local spread under control with tough containment measures, it is trying to restart its economic engines after weeks of near paralysis.

A chartered China Air Ltd plane flew in the Samsung Electronics employees on Wednesday, a company spokeswoman said.

Samsung said its employees will follow the local government’s policy upon arrival, without elaborating.

Shaanxi province, where Samsung’s NAND memory chip plant is located, requires people travelling from overseas to undergo a 14-day quarantine, according to South Korea’s foreign ministry.

“Samsung employees will not be exempted from the 14-day quarantine rule imposed by the Shaanxi province. They will get coronavirus tests at the airport upon arrival and will be transported to a local hotel designated by Chinese authorities,” an official at the Consulate General of South Korea in Xi’an told Reuters.

Samsung Electronics in December increased investment at its chip factory in China by $8 billion to boost production of NAND flash memory chips.

Reporting by Heekyong Yang in Seoul and Tom Daly in Beijing; Editing by Kim Coghill