From a young age all the way up to her college years, Chen Guang studied dance. Then, upon recommendations from her professors, she decided to change course from dance to business, furthering her studies at the Beijing International MBA Program at Peking University. Since then, she has grown her businesses and is now operating them around the world, including Korea. Like many others, Chen Guang first encountered Korean culture through the spread of K-pop and K-beauty, and naturally became interested in the Korean Wave and its tremendous business potential.
KOTRA Express sat down with her to hear more about her experiences and what she plans to accomplish as Honorary Ambassador of Foreign Investment Promotion for Korea.
You have been doing business in Korea for about three years. What kinds of changes have you seen here during that time?
When I first came to Korea, I felt that many Korean companies had interest in the Chinese market. Since then, numerous Korean firms have succeeded in making inroads into China, and now, that number seems to be increasing by the day.
The most significant change I’ve noticed during the past few years while doing business here is that an increasing number of Korean companies have come to accept overseas businesspeople and seek opportunities to cooperate with them. While expanding my business to Korea three years ago, I had to proactively seek out cooperation opportunities with Korean businesses, but now, Korean businesspeople reach out to me first for opportunities to collaborate. As a result, my schedule is packed with meetings with various business partners during my monthly visits to Seoul.
What kind of investment opportunities are Chinese companies looking for?
A lot of Chinese firms hold high regard for Korea’s technology, accounting, and finance sectors. Chinese companies are not yet well aware of all the advantages of partnering with Korean businesses in these sectors, but if they can find Korean companies that combine technology and accounting, they will be able to have access to more opportunities.
I think Korea is a very dynamic country. Many Korean industries are among the top in the world and equipped with advanced technologies. As you know, K-pop is extremely popular in China; therefore, there’s great potential for related entertainment, fashion and beauty industries to make investments into Korea. There’s also investment potential for the gaming, sports, leisure, and premium real estate markets. But what I value the most is Korea’s advanced technologies and outstanding products. With Korea‘s exceptional resources and China‘s broad markets, the two countries can complement each other and reap mutual benefits.
What kind of advice would you give investors from your country looking to do business in Korea?
First, I think it’s important for investors or companies targeting Korea as an investment destination to conduct thorough market research. They need accurate information on what the business environment is like and whether or not it is in line with their investment direction. It’s also important to set a timeline and follow through with plans in order to be as efficient as possible. Also, building relationships with partners is crucial, and it’s important to keep promises including those regarding investment and agreement conditions.
Here are three tips that I learned through my investment experiences in Korea over the years:
1. You should have a good understanding on the overall market, and make the purpose and goal(s) of your investment clear. Korea has a unique market, so it may be difficult to completely avoid any challenges during the investment process. In such cases, you’ll need to make wise decisions based on your investment purpose and goal(s).
2. It’s critical to set detailed, concrete investment and execution plans to successfully enter the Korean market. 3. A long-term commitment to the market is essential.
What can the Korean government do for foreign companies to make them feel more welcome?
Most of the world knows that the Korean government has already made great efforts in policy formulation and tax reduction, as well as for increased transparency and the improvement of the investment environment.
With regard to what else the Korean government can do, from my perspective, I’d suggest the introduction of exchange platforms and seminars specialized for Chinese companies, which can help deepen the understanding of Chinese firms of the Korean market.
Moreover, when small and medium-sized companies, rather than large ones, enter the Korean market, they often face obstacles. So, strengthening information sharing is of utmost importance. It would be beneficial for Korean government agencies, such as KOTRA, to have consultations with Chinese companies investing in Korea to provide information on effective investment methods and incentives. In addition, since most promotional efforts are focused on products, more detailed promotional methods offering information on what the benefits would be and how companies can combine the their existing businesses with new ones, would be helpful.
What are your hopes for the future relations between Korea and China?
Korea and China have maintained mutual exchanges for the last 30 years. The two countries have more cultural commonalities than any other Asian countries, and are closely related in many areas like politics, diplomacy, economy and trade. Recently, the bilateral relationship has weakened a bit, but I believe that the Korea-China ties can be strengthened further if the two countries continue to build upon the existing connection. .
At a time when the global economy is tightly interconnected, we are more dependent on one another than ever before. In the future, I hope that Korean and Chinese companies, in particular, will actively carry out various exchanges under the principles of mutual trust and a win-win relationship, and seek close cooperation on another level.
What would you like to accomplish during your time as Honorary Ambassador of Foreign Investment for Korea?
I feel honored to be appointed as an Honorary Ambassador of Foreign Investment for Korea, and I will do my best to fulfill my mission by actively supporting exchanges between Korean and Chinese companies, as well as helping Chinese firms invest in the Korean market, where they can create a variety of platforms and opportunities.
More specifically, I’d like to focus on the following issues:
First, I hope my own investment experience in Korea can serve as a successful business case for Chinese companies.
For example, NextEye Co., Ltd., a Korean company I invested in, has not only introduced premium Korean products to the Chinese market but has also made inroads into 10 countries throughout Asia in just three years, while producing shared benefits.
Second, I’d like to invite Chinese businesspeople to Korea through various platforms, distribution channels and events. Through communication with Korean firms, we can strengthen our understanding of the market and offer cooperation opportunities. For instance, I invited 12 heads of major companies in China to Invest Korea Week 2018, and so far, I’ve received lots of positive feedback from them on the Korean market and the investment environment. Ultimately, the better they understand Korea, the more likely it is that they will invest.
Third, in line with government’s initiative for innovative growth, I’ll explore areas where we can strengthen cooperation in the future industries, broaden industrial developments, and build a mutually beneficial business model for partnerships. Through these efforts, Korean and Chinese companies can deepen their friendships, enhance their exchanges, and push for new collaboration, which will eventually bring about win-win results for both countries.
By Grace Park (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Executive Consultant / Invest Korea