S. Korean presidential office anticipates supply chain cooperation with Cuba for EV batteries

By Kim Joo-heon Posted : February 19, 2024, 14:05 Updated : February 20, 2024, 01:37
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[Getty Images Bank]

SEOUL -- South Korea's presidential office aspires to cooperate in the mineral supply chain sector following the establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba. The Latin American country, well-known for its socialist and communist roots, is the world's fifth-largest producer of nickel, a critical material for secondary batteries, rechargeable batteries that are mainly used for the operation of electric vehicles and energy storage systems.

Along with manganese and cobalt, nickel plays a key role in increasing the energy density of cathodes. Cathode materials determine the capacity and voltage of batteries. Nickel is cheaper than cobalt, which is an expensive rare-earth element widely used in lithium-ion batteries and is vulnerable to sudden price fluctuations.

South Korea and Cuba formalized diplomatic relations on February 14, 2024. Despite limited interaction between the two countries since Cuba's socialist revolution in 1959, South Korea aims to strengthen its presence in Central and South America through this diplomatic establishment.

The South Korean presidential office said on February 18 that Cuba has immense potential for cooperation in the mineral supply chain sector as the Latin American country ranks fifth globally in nickel production and fourth in cobalt reserves. The office further evaluated that Cuba could rise as an emerging market if the current United States' sanctions are lifted.

Following the socialist revolution in 1959, the Cuban government took control of assets owned by American companies located in Cuba. This led the U.S. government to impose a stringent economic blockade on Cuba. The U.S. initiated sanctions against countries offering assistance to Cuba, including restrictions on travel. The Obama administration pursued sanctions relief, but they were intensified by the Trump administration.

South Korea plans to gradually create the foundation for expanding economic cooperation with Cuba. The two sides will discuss further steps, such as opening facilities for diplomatic missions. According to data cited by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, South Korea's total exports to Cuba were $14 million in 2022, while imports from Cuba reached $7 million. South Korea mainly exported construction materials, vehicles, and ships, and imported copper and industrial alcohol.

The presidential office will also promote cultural content in Cuba. About 10,000 members are involved in "ArtCor," a Cuban fan club of the Korean cultural wave. After South Korean TV drama "Queen of Housewives" was broadcast in Cuba in 2013, many other South Korean content including "My Fair Lady" and "Secret Garden" also garnered popularity among Cubans. 
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