KOTRA Express sits down with Nobuya Takasugi, Honorary Ambassador of Foreign Investment Promotion for Korea, to hear more about his experience doing business here and his hopes for Korea and Japan relations.
On the back of his experience as former Chairman & CEO of Fuji Xerox Korea and as the former president of the Seoul Japan Club (SJC), Nobuya Takasugi was appointed last year by the Ministry of Trade Industry & Energy and KOTRA as an Honorary Ambassador of Foreign Investment Promotion for Korea to promote Korea’s investment environment to Japanese investors and companies.
Takasugi joined Fuji Xerox in 1966 after graduating from Waseda University, and at 33 years of age, he took on a leadership role at the company’s headquarters following a training course in the U.S. and Canada. After many years at the company and spearheading Fuji’s Korea office, he retired in 2008 and was subsequently recruited by major Korean law firm Kim & Chang as an executive advisor. Later, he assumed the position of president at the Seoul Japan Club (SJC)—the equivalent of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce in Korea, and was also appointed as a civil member of the National Economic Advisory Council, serving as an economic advisor to the late Korean President Roh Moo-hyun. With such extensive experience behind him, he finally left Korea for his home country, Japan, in late 2017.
When asked about how Korea’s business environment has changed during his stay, Takasugi says that three major paradigm shifts took place, moving the Korean economy toward modernization, globalization and an environment open to new business models. The first paradigm shift happened in the 1960s when GDP per capita stood at a mere USD 80. After the Korean War, the Korean government concentrated on building infrastructure such as highways and dams with financial support from the U.S. and Japan, laying the foundation for realizing the country’s rapid economic growth, dubbed as the “Miracle on the Han River.”
The second paradigm shift occurred during the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis, coinciding with the time when Takasugi’s company sent him to Korea. He explains that during this period, the Korean government changed the economic indicator from GNP to GDP, intending to increase domestic mass production, attract foreign capital and mitigate regulations. As a result, the country experienced an inflow of foreign capital, allowing Fuji Xerox Korea to raise the share of Japanese capital from 50 to 100 percent. Thus, Takasugi was able to focus on managing Fuji Xerox Korea, namely on matters such as labor-management, adopting modern marketing methods, and establishing production lines.
The third shift took place during the global financial crisis in 2008. He says that Samsung, LG, Hyundai, Posco and other Korean manufacturers of smartphones, automobiles, televisions and etc. partnered with Japanese parts and materials companies, resulting in great performance and success. Takasugi says such cases prove the importance of partnership and cooperation between the two countries for co-prosperity. He also emphasizes the importance of Korea’s efforts to attract foreign investment for the growth of the Korean economy. He mentions that Korea is currently facing a fourth paradigm shift in the tides of the 4th Industrial Revolution, as well as societal trends like low birth rate and population aging. As always, the Korean economy is expected to mature into a more flexible, business-friendly and globalized market after riding out the current changes underway.
When asked for some suggestions on strengthening collaboration between Korea and Japan, Takasugi says it is critical for the two countries, as geographical neighbors, to work together for mutual economic benefits aside from the diplomatic issues at hand. He says that Korea and Japan share common values like democracy and the market economy, while also possessing their own unique advantages. Taking smartphones as an example, he says Korea’s strength lies in design and performance while Japan’s strength is in the quality of parts; if the two countries can combine their strong points, they will be able to create a win-win cooperation model.
To this end, he proposes six specific, feasible solutions from a forward-looking standpoint. The first is to continue running sports exchange or quality community events as part of grass roots gatherings led by the younger generation in both countries. The second is to share more insight and information to overcome common social issues that plague both countries such as low birth rate, aging population and human resource development. Third, he suggests creating a regional platform to work closely together to fight against environmental problems including marine pollution, yellow dust and fine particulate matter. The fourth is to seek ways to cooperate with each other to further integrate the energy business into a green growth framework. Fifth, he recommends making a concerted effort to consistently push for global scale projects such as energy exploration in a third nation. Lastly, he proposes the formation of a bilateral free trade bloc to maximize the economic benefits for both Korea and Japan.
Takasugi stresses that the countries and their private sectors must avoid being swayed by political and diplomatic difficulties, but rather, reflect on how they can merge each other’s strengths for the greater benefit. He ends by saying, “Both Japan and Korea need to stand together to keep working on building our friendship economically and culturally,” and adds, “I think now is the time to learn lessons from history which tells us to ‘put yourself into the other’s position’ or ‘sincere friendship binds our people’ while we endure through these hard times.”
Honorary Ambassador of Foreign Investment Promotion for Korea
Former Chairman & CEO, Fuji Xerox Korea
Former President of the Seoul Japan Club
By Grace Park (email@example.com)
Investment Public Relations Team / Invest Korea
Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA)