S. Korea Boosts Trade Relations
Published: September 28, 2011 (Issue # 1676)
ALEXANDER BELENKY / SPT
Lee Yeon Su, general consul of South Korea, welcomed the opening of the office.
After two months of preparations and negotiations with the city’s authorities, Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) opened a department in St. Petersburg last week, making it the fourth KOTRA office in Russia.
Established in 1962 to bolster the Korean economy through trade, the agency now has branches in 76 countries.
“KOTRA doesn’t only help Korean enterprises to work internationally, but also helps foreign companies to enter South Korea’s market; it is a global economic collaboration,” said Suk-Woo Hong, president of KOTRA, during the office’s official opening ceremony last Thursday.
“Just from looking out of my hotel room window, I can see how well St. Petersburg is developed economically,” he added.
Today more than 30 Korean companies are represented in St. Petersburg, including the automobile industry giant Hyundai Motor, which makes 100,000 cars at its local plant per year, as well as LG and Samsung electronics companies and finance and investment firms. Several more companies are set to open in the city in the near future.
“Today’s event was to be expected,” said Lee Yeon Su, general consul of South Korea in St. Petersburg. “The northwestern federal district is one of the most active regions in Russia, with highly intensive work by Korean companies.”
The current trade relationship between Russia and South Korea is developing somewhat one-sidedly. According to statistics, Korean companies import 12 times more here than Russian companies export to South Korea. Last year, however, a sharp increase in bilateral trade was observed.
From January to August 2010, bilateral trade between Russia and South Korea increased by 82.2 percent to more than $11 billion. The data was announced by the President Dmitry Medvedev during an official visit to Seoul last November.
“Unfortunately, the global financial crisis led to the decrease of bilateral trade, but according to this year’s numbers, we are gradually returning to pre-crisis performances,” Medvedev was quoted as saying then by RBC.
“South Korea is the third biggest foreign investor in the economy of St. Petersburg,” said Alexander Prokhorenko, head of City Hall’s External Relations Committee.
“Korean investments demonstrate the interest in our region and our city. The opening of a KOTRA office is an opportunity for St. Petersburg to develop, not only at the level of large enterprises, but also in the sphere of small-scale business.”
Taking into account Korean interest not only in the city itself but in Russia’s northwest region as a whole, the development of Russia-Korea trade in the Leningrad Oblast and other regions appears to be promising.
“Considering the presence of representatives of the northwestern federal district here today, I believe that KOTRA’s activities will not be limited to St. Petersburg only,” Vladimir Zapevalov, a representative of the Foreign Affairs Ministry in St. Petersburg, said Thursday.
The development of the pharmaceutical and medical sector is already under discussion between representatives of both Korean and Russian businesses, along with the continuation of the ship-building industry and expansion of the automobile industry.
“The opening of KOTRA in St. Petersburg became possible thanks to the positive background of the relationship on both sides, and thanks to cumulative investment experience, but we want the relationship to be even more saturated. We are putting our hopes on the Korean interest in pharmaceuticals and medicine,” said Prokhorenko.
“I believe that KOTRA will become a meeting place for Russian and Korean companies and will strengthen economic relationships between the two countries,” said Lee.