By Don Southerton
On January 26, 2011, the University of California, San Diego Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies (IRPS) sponsored a lecture by Dr. Chung Un-chan. A former president of Seoul National University and Prime Minister of South Korea, Dr. Chung’s career bridges both academia and government. The well-attended lecture shared to students, faculty, and distinguished guests, Dr. Chung’s timely thoughts and views on U.S.-Korean relations, while offering suggestions for strengthening future ties into the 21st Century.
Dr. Chung stressed the need for both nations to be More Open, More Confident, and More Compassionate. Highlights of his lecture included the importance of education, study abroad, and first-hand experience of other cultures.
Following the lecture, I was invited to attend a diner with Dr. Chung hosted by IRPS Dean Peter Cowhey. In attendance was Professor emeritus Larry Krause, Professor Stephan Haggard, Professor You, Jong-sung, Professor Gordon Hansen, and Dr. Byong Mok Kim, M.D.
Over the course of three hours, discussions covered a wide range of Korea-facing topics, including KORUS FTA, the Six Way talks, North Korea’s recent aggression against South Korea, China-Korea-U.S. relations, North Korea refuges, the future role of U.S. military forces in South Korea, and North-South unification.
During the diner I had a wonderful opportunity to speak at length with Dr. Chung on issues and concerns that impact Korea-facing global business. I was also asked by Dean Cowhey to share with Dr. Chung and the distinguished faculty my experiences and the challenges working with global Korea-based Groups and international firms entering the Korea market.
That said, one point I raised to Dr. Chung and group was concerns by many of my clients over North Korea acts of aggression against South Korea and the constant saber rattling. Dr. Chung acknowledged such concern and noted that one outcome of the recent incidents was a huge shift in younger Korean’s views of the North---most now less tolerant of the North in light of the December 2010 shelling of civilians. Moreover, Dr. Chung and the others scholars felt the recent aggression had greatly strengthened U.S.-South Korean relations; with America reaffirming it’s support of South Korea.
Although North Korea continues to perplex even those with deep insights into the regime, I feel that the consensus is that the status quo will continue in North Korea and the peninsula into the near future.
One final point I raised to Dr. Chung stressed the challenges to entering the South Korean market. Dr. Chung’s answer was quite frank---he felt Korea was already a “very open market.” He pointed out that language and communications were issues, but added that when compared to Japan, China, and other nations, Korea was very open to trade, business, and commerce. Moreover, Dr. Chung noted than when he was Prime Minister he oversaw the elimination of hundreds of regulations.
On a personal note, I found Dr. Chung very approachable and taking a real interest in questions posed to him by the IRPS facility and guests.
Don, thanks for your extended report.
According to **Dr. Chung’s answer was quite frank---he felt Korea was already a “very open market.” ** I have to say as an entrepreneur I have a different opinion about that!! Likewise our co-member Joshua Davies already said, the truth for SME is quite different.
For instance: The special Economic Free Zone in Busan is very suitable for LARGE companies but for companies with investment portfolio of 1-3,5 million euros per case its still a big mountain to climb. Although my korean counterparts were very willing and very helpfull according to my experiences in China (Shanghai) were still much easier. Especially the lack of official documents/infomaterial in the english language shocked me to be quite honest. So they can say that the korean government improved....at the frontoffice( nice english brochures bla bla bla) but in the backoffice wherer the real business has to be done its still bad( no english documents anymore) although these business projects were specified especially for the foreign companies.
So there is much more work to be done for the korean (local)government. I am convinced that the possible prosperous future of Korea based on trade and less on manufacturing will also depending on how they are gonna provide better service to the SME..... just like Joshua Davies is telling us. Its time for a SME FDI!
The former PM is right there are language and communication problems to be solved but thats NOT enough. There are still left topics like more comfortable tax-return for SME (the first 3yrs) likewise the big ones, easier hiring korean employees, better childcare facilities for korean employees and so on.
I should add that Dr. Chung is now very involved in supporting the needs of SME. He mentioned this in his lecture and in private. He is an advisor for the Shared Growth initiative in Korea. Dr. Chung pointed out that SME need assistance to compete against the daekiop, but are needed since they bring innovation and new ideas.
I think that Dr Chung would be in that -SMEcontext- a good interviewee for our Business Series 2011. Don, maybe you should interviewing him? ;-)
It would be for foreign entrepreneurs really helpful if they were be able to create a "workable" -one window shop stop- locally for each region/major city. Also they(government) could force the big global korean companies to aloud more SME companies in (ground)areas of potential growth (free ec.zone etc). Nowadays you can see for instance in Busan that the most of attention and help goes to the big ones. For the needed survival of an economic zone/area its undoubtly neccesary to have a big percentage(80%) of SME presence where the big ones are already there. Political backup from a man like Dr Chung could be very helpfull for our collegue entrepreneurs who doesn't have always the needed connections with the local/national politics. And everybody in Korea knows how important that kind of string(lifeline) (still) is.
I do believe you on your word....but I have seen so much "stupid" things. I think KBC can be a great resource for the future if we can tackle some SME issues.
Don, I have several NL-companies who are really interested to invest in a new branch office but are scared out by the korean government. But that is a lucky for me...they do than definitely need me to succeed....