KOTRA Express sits down with Jenny Chu, Honorary Ambassador of Foreign Investment Promotion for Korea, to hear more about her plans to promote Korea’s investment environment to U.S. investors and her aspirations for Korea-U.S. relations.
Jenny Chu grew up in Korea and moved to the United States in 1985, where she has built up her career experience in the finance industry. At the foundation of her passions was her desire to support her home country, as most of her family members still live in Korea. Based on her background as well as her extensive network and capabilities, she was appointed as Honorary Ambassador of Foreign Investment Promotion for Korea in 2019.
Chu joined Merrill Lynch in 2016 after working eight years as Managing Director at JP Morgan. She has worked in the financial services industry for more than 20 years, managing ultra-high net worth individuals and corporations to meet their wealth management needs.
Prior to joining JP Morgan, she was one of the opening members of UBS in Beverly Hills when the company launched its flagship store in 2000. There, Chu worked as First Vice President for 10 years, managing investment portfolios and cash management requirements.
KOTRA Express sat down with her to hear more about what Korea has to offer as an investment destination, and gain some insight into how the country is dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
What about Korea’s history, economy or culture appeals to you the most?
Korea is a very dynamic and fast-paced country. It encourages creativity and innovation and provides various avenues to foster smart, bright-minded talent.
How interested are companies from the U.S. in investing in Korea and what opportunities are they most interested in?
Investors are seeking to invest a little differently now than in the past. Specifically, investors may now be more attracted to Korea’s service sector rather than manufacturing, because the country’s services aren’t as developed as its manufacturing sector just yet. Also, investors may be more interested in M&A rather than establishing their own factories from scratch via Greenfield investment.
What advice would you give American investors and companies seeking to do business in Korea?
I would advise them to first and foremost, find local partners that are right for them. Also, there are plenty of sources that can help with the investment process such as Invest Korea, who can ensure they receive the proper information and decrease the risks of entering a foreign country for business.
What sort of support do investors from the U.S. want from Korea?
I believe that the role of government is crucial. Currently, it seems like more emphasis is placed on providing incentives for prospective investors, while investors actually prefer lower costs, minimal regulations, and better infrastructure. If Korea meets these conditions, I think it would be a big motivation for foreign companies to be willing to enter the Korean market, even without the incentives. Therefore, it’d be a wise choice for the government to focus on creating a good business environment first, then consider creating incentives for investment.
What would you like to accomplish during your time as Honorary Ambassador of Foreign Investment Promotion for Korea?
Korea and the U.S. have been long-time friends and allies. The trade and investment environment are also incredibly active between the two countries. American investors, however, are still not as well aware of Korea’s capabilities and potential. Using my network and experience in the financial industry, I would like to bridge the gap between the two countries and introduce all of the opportunities in which they can collaborate.
What are your views on Korea’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic?
I think investors worldwide have been gaining valuable insight into Korea’s swift response measures and technological advancements to contain the COVID-19 outbreak. It was very wise for health officials in Korea to take aggressive actions against COVID-19 in the early onset of infections, while sharing detailed information on the cases confirmed, geographical patterns, and treatments in a rapid and transparent manner to the public.
What are some lessons that others can take away from how Korea is handling the situation?
Both the daily sharing of information on new cases and health authorities’ quarantine efforts to get the disease under control have been model examples for other countries to take away from this pandemic. The Korean people have started to rely more on KCDC’s updates and are treating its transparent data as a reliable source to counteract the blow of the epidemic. This, in turn, has led to stronger social cohesion and cooperation to fight against the nationwide pandemic.
From what I understand, Korea has also put to work its superior medical technology to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak by rapid testing via real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and temporarily approving test medication for treatment.
How do you think the current situation is affecting business activities?
In terms of the economy, Korea has been pushing for diverse support measures to minimize the impact of the crisis on businesses and the market.
The Korean government has drawn up supplementary budgets to cope with the economic shock. Also, it’s committed to quickly informing international organizations, global investors, and credit rating agencies with accurate and up-to-date data regarding the Korean economy.
I believe that despite this global pandemic, Korea is best suited to handle COVID-19 and any other future threat. It boasts an attractive investment environment based on its solid manufacturing base, talented workforce, and high levels of market openness. This is also evidenced by statistics which demonstrate that Korea is attracting more FDI this year than last year. All in all, the country’s efforts, paired with transparency and innovation make Korea a safe and attractive place to invest both now and in the future.
Honorary Ambassador of Foreign Investment Promotion for Korea
By Grace Park (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Investment Public Relations Team / Invest Korea
Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA)