As one of Asia’s most stable and most dynamic economies, South Korea maintains its status as a global leader because of its commitment to free trade and mastery of technological innovation. Following his inauguration last May, President Moon Jae-in reaffirmed his government’s plan to strengthen its international relations, especially in trade and investment.
Amid the political and economic shifts on the domestic, regional and international fronts, this Special Report on South Korea, tentatively scheduled for publication in the September/October 2018 issue of Foreign Affairs, aims to outline South Korea’s strategic importance to the Asia and the world, while highlighting its growth sectors and the opportunities for investment and business partnerships.
Despite the occasional outbreak of political turmoil, South Korea has displayed structural stability that allowed its admirable rise as a formidable economic power both in Asia and the world. And defying fears over the geopolitical situation on the Korean peninsula and the recent rise of protectionist rhetoric, the South Korean economy continues to provide new investment opportunities.
The Korean Electronics Association (KEA) can attest to this fact. Founded in 1976 to support the electronics and IT industries, KEA has worked closely with the government in promoting South Korea’s reputation as a leading manufacturers of consumer electronics and home appliances in the world.
Today, it plays a pivotal role in helping its members adapt to the growth of the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, 3D printing, big data and supply chain. Aside from laying the foundation for investments in these new fields, KEA is also fostering research and specialization in universities to drive innovation.
“Conversations are getting important in terms of AI and IOT. KEA is cooperating with Samsung and LG, as well as with SMEs, and vehicle and telecommunication companies. This cannot be done by a single company, but we are trying to be the bridge,” KEA President and CEO, Nam In-sum said.
The financial sector is also experiencing a new period of growth. The Korean Financial Investment Association (KOFIA) is working together with the government and the private sector to create an environment that will bring in more foreign investment.
As the financial industry’s only self-regulatory group, KOFIA advocates for fair, market-friendly regulation, which will spur further growth in the industry. To complement KOFIA’s efforts, the government spurs innovation through subsidies and policy changes. As Korean firms pursue increased globalization and more modernization, securities firms have started licensing their trading systems to companies in Southeast Asia. These systems allow individual investors easy access and encourages fintech companies to pursue joint development with financial firms.
However, huge challenges remain, among them the difficulty of navigating the so-called fourth industrial revolution. To address the issue, some global advisory firms have adopted blockchain technology to attend to a wider base of customers through secure services.
“I am very positive about the outlook for Korea and I believe, we can counter these issues and maintain the dynamics of Korea,” KOFIA Chairman Kwon Yong-won said.
KOFIA will recommend improvements in laws, regulations, and tax policies surrounding financial investment as it boosts competitiveness through digital innovation and promote free trade.
Another advocate of globalization is the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea (AmCham Korea), the country’s largest foreign chamber with more than 700 members.
“Part of our job at AmCham is to help U.S. companies here in Korea and, at the same time, promote Korean companies investing in the United States, which will create jobs for Americans,” AmCham Korea CEO James Kim said.