As South Korea’s national investment promotion agency,
KOTRA boasts its wide overseas network which spans 86 countries with 10 local head offices and 127 Korea Business Centers.
Less known is that KOTRA operates support centers in 11 local
provinces across Korea. Two more centers are scheduled to open
this year as the demand for domestic support continues to rise.
In 2008, KOTRA’s regional support centers were closed down
because the government determined that the Ministry of SMEs
and Startups should take charge of fostering domestic SMEs
while KOTRA should focus on overseas affairs. However, as the
number of SMEs seeking overseas expansion grew, the regional
support centers were revived in 2013 and grew in number in the
The 11 KOTRA province support centers in Jeonbuk, Gyeonggi, Gyeongnam, Gangwon, Daejeon-Chungnam, Incheon, Daegu-Gyeongbuk, Gwangju-Jeonnam, Ulsan, Chungbuk, Busan, and the two upcoming centers to be located in Northern Gyeonggi Province and Seoul will strengthen KOTRA in achieving its mission to lead the way for SMEs to explore overseas markets.
Functions of the Regional Support Centers
Since SMEs located outside of the nation’s capital are lacking
the convenience of accessing the KOTRA headquarters in Seoul,
the support centers have been their main points of contact, assuming numerous responsibilities. Their functions include: providing
on-site solutions for difficulties; supporting overseas marketing;
nurturing “export industrialization” of the specialty goods and
services specific to each of the provinces; and operating the
Global Business Clubs. Major activities of the support centers
consist of dispatching trade delegations to various countries, as
well as hosting expos, events, consultation meetings and seminars
to connect local SMEs with global buyers and companies.
Operating the Global Business Clubs is one of the main activities of the regional support centers. Each support center operates one Global Business Club to facilitate networking among businesses within the province. During the official meetings held each quarter (four times a year) as well as the unofficial meetings held regularly, companies and institutions can share information and possibly discover potential cooperation partners. Sub-committee meetings are also held for companies to share more detailed information according to the particular industry, product and region. As of 2018, approximately 700 companies are registered in these clubs. Networking is not the only incentive in being part of the KOTRA Global Business Clubs. Members can also benefit from the numerous seminars and discounts offered.
Another interesting service of KOTRA’s regional support centers is “KOTRA on the Move.” It refers to the service where export specialists visit a company in need to provide customized consultation. As the name of the service suggests, KOTRA on the Move has been tremendously active. In 2017, a total of 2,408 visits were conducted by the export specialists from the support centers. Interested companies can simply submit an application online to participate in the selection process, in which appropriate departments at the KOTRA headquarters will review and determine the companies needing support.
Daegu-Gyeongbuk Support Center
While the main services of the support centers focus on organizing consultations and informational meetings, some of the centers are actively participating in other events. For instance, the Daegu-Gyeongbuk center has invited foreign buyer companies to expos and events such as the Korea International Textile Machinery Exhibition, the International Fire & Safety Expo, the Daegu International Beauty Expo, the ICT Convergence Expo and the International Green Energy Expo & Conference to arrange consultations with promising Korean companies. At the Daegu Consumer Goods Business Plaza, one-on-one meetings were conducted between 47 foreign buyers and 115 Korean companies. Additionally, with aim to penetrate the Chinese market, the center has been successful in building a bridge between Gyeongbuk Province and regions across China by arranging meetings between domestic companies and Chinese buyers from major distribution networks.
Gwangju-Jeonnam Support Center
The Gwangju-Jeonnam center also takes part in a number of events including the International Green Car Expo/Robot Expo, the Manufacturing Technology (Ppuri) Fair, the Solar Wind Earth Energy Trade (SWEET) Fair and the Gwangju International Food Fair.
Ulsan Support Center
The Ulsan center supported the Ulsan Export Plaza by inviting foreign buyers from emerging markets in countries such as India, Indonesia and Russia. By utilizing KOTRA’s vast global network, participation of the support centers in these types of events and fairs can greatly aid local companies that seek opportunities to connect with the global market.
Incheon Support Center
KOTRA’s regional support centers usually partner with local SME support institutions in each of the provinces to provide more enhanced services. KOTRA’s Incheon support center is strategically located in the same building as the Ministry of SMEs and Startups Incheon and the Small & Medium Business Corporation. This cooperative “under one roof” environment combines the strengths of each institution, thus improving the quality of the services that the center has to offer. The Incheon center also aims to increase the number of SMEs expanding overseas and strengthen their competitiveness in overseas markets by connecting export specialists with export novices as mentors and mentees.
Chungbuk Support Center
The Chungbuk center works with the Chungbuk Global Marketing System (CBGMS) to provide all types of support to SMEs.
Busan Support Center
The Busan center recently commenced its new project, the Korea Auto Parts Park (KAPP), with a local foreign marketing agency to support auto parts companies in the region. Selected companies will receive financial, legal and administrative sup- port in expanding into the global market.