As Honorary Ambassador of Foreign Investment Promotion for Korea and CEO of Maxon Motor, Eugen Elmiger had deep insight to offer us on Korea’s business environment as well as his hopes for the future relationship between Korea and Switzerland. KOTRA Express sat down with Eugen to hear more about his story.
Please tell us about yourself.
I originally studied electrical engineering at Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and then completed further education at the University of St. Gallen and Stanford Business School. After assuming various positions in business development and international sales, I joined Maxon Motor, a Swiss company specializing precision drive systems, in 1991. I was initially responsible for the development and expansion of the sales network in Asia. In 2006, I became a member of the executive board, and have been serving as CEO of the company since January 2011.
How did you become interested in Korea?
During a part of my career at Maxon Motor, I served as the Regional Sales Manager of Asia in the late 1990s. My experience with Korea began at that time through direct interaction with Korean colleagues, suppliers and customers. These relationships gave me the impression of enthusiastic yet prudent and goal-oriented, hard-working partners.
What about Korea’s history/economy/culture appeals to you the most?
To my knowledge, Korea has a long and prestigious history along with its original language and cultural assets. Also, the remarkable growth achieved by the Korean economy is now written in textbooks. My experience with the Korean people have provided me with the portrait of diligent, passionate, dynamic and well-educated colleagues suited for flexible and open-innovation business. I sincerely appreciate the working attitude of Koreans and their respect toward organizational culture. I also have to mention that, as a frequent traveler around the globe, Korean food is one of my favorites.
What would you like to accomplish during your time as Honorary Ambassador of Foreign Investment Promotion for Korea?
I believe that one of the major roles as an Honorary Ambassador of Foreign Investment Promotion is to put up an exemplary business model which is accomplished by the collaboration between Korean and foreign countries in the areas of investment, communication, R&D and so forth. As CEO of Maxon Motor, I will support and drive Maxon Motor Mfg., Korea to become a leading site among countries around the world for advanced motor/drive technology. I hope these activities can create a positive driving force to draw in more potential foreign investors interested in Korea as an investment destination.
How interested are companies from Switzerland in investing in Korea and what sort of opportunities/sectors are they most interested in?
Personally, I think Swiss companies usually have very limited first-hand experience and knowledge on Korea, and instead, Eastern European countries or China have acquired preferences in manufacturing investors from Switzerland. Although Korea has attracted some investment from Switzerland in the food and consumer market industries, recent interest seems to be moving toward ICT related businesses such as medical-IT industries, owing in part to Korea’s well-developed IT and infrastructure. Of course, in Maxon Motor’s case, the advanced precision technology area also possesses great potential in Korea and is bringing in opportunities and interest from Swiss investors.
What advice would you give investors/companies from your country seeking to do business in Korea?
As mentioned earlier, the exceptional HR and strong manufacturing competitiveness of Korea is a valuable asset for success in business, and the foreign investors or companies interested in working with Korea should actively utilize these advantages. In addition, most Koreans are well-educated and trained, which makes daily communication and job execution more effective and easier than in other countries. Moreover, Korea already possesses world-class leadership in many manufacturing industries including electronics, automotive and chemical/energy, and these environments can provide vast opportunities for advanced technologies that need multi-faceted collaboration, continuous improvement and high-quality communication skills.
What sort of support do investors from Switzerland want from Korea and how can Korea be a more ideal country for Swiss companies?
Korea is one of the best countries in that the government and society provide a predictable business environment to foreign collaborators. Additionally, the current government has recently made great efforts to improve the relationship with North Korea, which is expected to help dispel the bit of uncertainty associated with the Korean Peninsula, and therefore making it a more attractive country to run a new business. From my understanding, the Korean government offers various business-friendly policies for SMEs and foreign investment. If these specific policies could be more rigorously advertised to potential participants in business with Korea, I think it may facilitate investment promotion further. Along the same lines, some of the policies beneficial for Korean SMEs can be similarly applied to foreign companies (especially those in initial set-up stages), which can lead to successful cases on a more sustainable and flexible basis in the future.
What are your hopes for economic/political relations between Korea and Switzerland?
I believe the relationship between Korea and Switzerland will become stronger. In general, Koreans may view Switzerland as a nation of chocolate, cheese, sightseeing and beautiful scenery. But if we can build an increasingly multi-faceted relationship based on success cases in the industrial sectors, especially those associated with advanced technologies like Maxon Motor’s Korean plant, it will lead to the mutual benefit of both countries and also help the relationship expand further into the cultural aspects including sports and the arts. I would like to contribute in adding positive avenues “driven by passion and heart” to these activities while serving as Honorary Ambassador of Foreign Investment Promotion for Korea.
By Grace Park
Investment Public Relations Team
Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA)