Korea trade mission

From Tokyo’s Haneda Airport to Gimpo in Seoul, the smaller airport close to the city centre. Although landing on hypermodern Incheon airport is no burden, as your suitcase is usually on the belt before you even have a stamp in your passport (no, that doesn’t mean the queues at immigration are terribly long... but the drive to the city is). It is now over a year since we moved from Seoul to Amsterdam, and I enjoy coming back every time.

“This time, I arrive in South Korea as a participant of the Amsterdam trade mission led by Mayor Van der Laan. Together with companies from the region, including Deloitte, Kia, AKD, Schiphol, AON and start-ups DriveUgo and The Student Hotel, in addition to the Amsterdam Chamber of Commerce (KvK) and the VU University, the most important goal is to strengthen ties with a large number of Korean companies that have picked Amsterdam as their European business location. In addition, we would also like to attract Korean businesses, students and talent to Amsterdam.

We visit eight South Korean companies, where we are received will the utmost esteem and jointly discuss new plans for European expansion, exchange gifts and have our picture taken for the archives. Most CEOs express their appreciation for the fact that the Mayor of the Dutch capital personally comes to thank them in Seoul for their investments in Amsterdam.

The third edition of the blog report from Jeroen Plag, head of International Corporate Clients ING, during his business trip through Asia for the website of “Het Financieele Dagblad”. After having travelled to Mongolia and Japan, Plag reports from South Korea, where he joins the Amsterdam trade mission led by the city Mayor, Van der Laan. Together with companies from the region, the aim is to strengthen ties with Korean companies that have chosen Amsterdam as their European business location, and to attract more Korean businesses, students and talent to the Dutch capital.

The usefulness of this type of mission is often underestimated in the Netherlands, as the presence of the considerably heavyweight dignitaries, together with the local Dutch ambassador, ensures that the entire management teams of several chaebols (the large industrial conglomerates) are present at the other end of the table. This doesn’t happen very often in normal meetings. As we conduct business on an international scale with most Korean companies, particularly in Europe, these visits prove most useful to perpetuate relations at a high level.

From a macro-economic perspective, mainly middle-sized Korean exporters suffer from the cheaper yen (see Abenomics in the previous blog about Japan) and the therefore more expensive won. Of all the Asian currencies, the South Korean won has increased most in value, while almost all other emerging market currencies decreased in value compared to the US dollar.

There are indeed positive reports from larger steel factories that are seeing an improving market in ship construction. In addition, Korean conglomerates remain internationally active in securing gas and oil, as the country has no natural supplies of its own. They way in which the government cooperates together with banks, credit insurers and other private sector players works like a well-oiled machine. Perhaps an export model to also explore in the Netherlands?

In addition to the meetings with companies there was a grand networking dinner (150 guests) with classical and modern Korean musical entertainment. From the 22nd floor of the Plaza Hotel across the newly renovated City Hall – one of the few older buildings to have survived the fury of the Korean war – I looked out over the wide boulevards where pop star PSY performed before 80,000 fans. In the distance, set on the slopes of the Blue House, lays the official residence of the President, and behind those hills is the Pyeongchang Dong district, where we happily lived for 3.5 years.

Off to Shanghai and Hong Kong in four weeks, and then we move on again!”


Initially published by Dutch daily 'Het Financieele Dagblad', re-published with permission by ING.