As an Honorary Ambassador of Foreign Investment Promotion, Jamie Metzl is working tirelessly to strengthen relations between Korea and the United States
Since being appointed Honorary Ambassador of Foreign Investment Promotion for Korea in 2013, Jamie Metzl has been actively promoting Korea’s optimum investment environment in the United States. With Korea-U.S. ties becoming more complex than ever, Metzl is determined to strengthen bilateral relations during his second term as honorary ambassador. We talked with the novelist, commentator and expert in Asian affairs on what American companies should look out for when doing business in the country.
Please tell us about yourself.
I’m a Senior Fellow of the Atlantic Council, novelist, blogger, syndicated columnist, media commentator and expert in Asian affairs and biotechnology policy. I previously served as Executive Vice President of the Asia Society, Deputy Staff Director of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senior Coordinator for International Public Information at the U.S. State Department, Director for Multilateral Affairs on the National Security Council and as a Human Rights Officer for the United Nations in Cambodia. I’m also a former Partner and current Advisory Board member of a New York-based global investment firm and am on the Advisory Council to Walmart’s Future of Retail Policy Lab.
I appear regularly on national and international media discussing Asian economic and political issues and my syndicated columns and other writing on Asian affairs, genetics, virtual reality and other topics are featured regularly in publications around the world. I’ve written four books, the last two of which are my science fiction novels Genesis Code and Eternal Sonata. I hold a Ph.D. in Asian history from Oxford, a JD from Harvard Law School, am a graduate of Brown University, and, for whatever it’s worth, have completed 13 Ironman triathlons, 29 marathons and 15 ultramarathons.
How did you become interested in Korea and what about the country appeals to you the most?
’ve always been fascinated by Korea, so when I joined the Asia Society I pushed hard for greater engagement with the country. It was my great honor to work with people like Lee Hong Koo, Ban Ki Moon, Richard Holbrooke and Shin Dong Bin to help bring the Asia Society Korea Center to Seoul. The more we did with Korea and Koreans, the more enthralled I became with the history, culture, vitality, passion and sheer determination of the Korean people. Since then, my passion for Korea has only deepened.
Korea has come such a long way from being one of the world’s least advanced countries in the 1950s to becoming one of the most today. I always tell people that the smartest bet a person can make is to bet on the Korean people. If there is a task to be done, Koreans will stop at nothing to get there. It is telling that so many Koreans lined up to give their gold to the central bank during the 1997 financial crisis.
What would you like to accomplish during your term as Honorary Ambassador of Foreign Investment Promotion for Korea?
My biggest goal is to help deepen the economic and social relationship between Korea and the United States. Our two countries have been joined at the hip for almost eight decades but there is still a great deal of work to be done, especially in such challenging times as today.
How interested are companies from the United States in investing in Korea and what sort of opportunities/sectors are they most interested in?
American companies have a growing interest in Korea, but their focus is shifting. As China plays a greater role in traditional manufacturing, American companies look increasingly to Korea for innovation in the technology, culture, and beauty industries. Because of its strong work culture, empowered workers, spirit of innovation, and rule of law, Korea can also be a safe platform from which to engage the broader Asian market.
What advice would you give American companies seeking to do business in Korea?
Spend time getting to know the people and culture of Korea. Once you do, you will see that Korea’s tremendous potential is only beginning to be unlocked.
U.S. investors know a lot about Korea’s chaebol but less about the many small and medium sized enterprises beginning to emerge in Korea, so introductions to these companies are extremely useful. For U.S. companies seeking to potentially make larger industrial investments in Korea, the Korean government has some superb incentive programs designed to make the economics of locating to Korea as enticing as possible. Ask for what you need and there’s a decent chance you’ll get it.
The Korea-U.S. relationship is a strong but also complicated one. What are your hopes for economic/political relations between the two regions?
The United States is undergoing a difficult and uncertain political phase, but the U.S.-Korean relationship is greater than any individual leader and will endure. When the American political situation becomes more normalized, there will be an unparalleled opportunity for our two countries to work far more closely together to further build our economies, spur global innovation and address some of the greatest challenges of the 21st century.
By Esther Oh (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Executive Consultant/Invest Korea