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One-on-one with Jean-Marie Hurtiger

Please introduce about yourself including your professional experience

Originating from France Alsace region, I, Jean-Marie Hurtiger, earned a Master of Science from Ponts-Paritech and an MBA from INSEAD.

After working 3 years in an engineering firm in the USA, I spent 10 years in Europe holding various management positions in in the oil industry before joining Renault Group car company. Initially, I managed the International Division, spending time in China, Malaysia, India, Russia, Poland, Ukraine, Turkey and South American. From 2000, I managed the rebirth of the moribund Dacia Brand in Romania, launching the new models of the Logan lineup, which became the cash cow of Renault Group, and exceeds today the Renault Brand in sales. In 2006, I became CEO of the Renault Samsung Motors co., based in Seoul, rejuvenating the car lineup. I was also elected as President of the European Chamber of Commerce in Seoul.

I returned to Paris in 2012 to lead the Commercial Vehicles division. Since I left Renault Group, I have been advising companies, mostly in the car industry, who want to enter the global market and particularly Korea. I am Honorary Ambassador of the Republic of Korea since 2016.

Please tell us your experience with Korea and why you desire to be the Honorary Ambassador of Foreign Investment Promotion for Korea

As the CEO of a large company in Korea, covering many different activities, like design and engineering at the Kiheug Technical Center of RSM, purchasing and manufacturing at the Busan plant and administration, sales and marketing from RSM headquarters in Seoul, I had the opportunities to experience all aspects of running a business in Korea, dealing with the local culture, business practices and regulations and to exchange, discuss and negotiate with many Korean administration.

Additionally, as the President of the European Chamber of Commerce in Korea, my main task was to connect the foreign investors companies with the Korean administration, to record, analyze and understand their problems locally and find the best ways to solve their problems in coordination with the Korean administration, principally the Foreign Investment Promotion Agency. I was also involved at the time in the negotiation of the FTA between Europe and Korea, bringing the technical expertise of the concerned companies to the negotiation table.

Can you tell us about your accomplishments as honorary ambassador?

I have been Honorary Ambassador now for several years and still enjoy very much what I’m doing. With the KOTRA members in Paris we regularly meet with the major French companies, operating in Korea or interested in investing in Korea. These companies appreciate the exchanges with us, however, being multinational, they are most of the time able to address by themselves the problems that they encounter dealing with Korea. They can make investment decisions by themselves, and very often, these companies already have international structures, which means that they have a regional headquarters somewhere in Asia, most of the time in either Hong Kong, Japan, or Singapore. Hence, our input is not so much to provide basic information about the country, which they already have, but to help them shape the investment decision process.

In addition, I am trying to address more of the medium-sized companies in France which are already doing business internationally and can possibly expand to Korea. Along with KOTRA-Paris, we’ve started to talk to those companies, with some good results, as many already consider Korea, but need critical information to finalize their investment decision. We need to come at the right time to tell them, “Yes, you can go to Korea,” “Yes, we can help you,” and “We can answer the questions you may have.” I believe it is our duty to increase the Korean awareness of the potential of medium-sized companies in France that are already very international, are world leaders in their niche products, and have potential to do well in Korea.

Please describe the investment cooperation between Korea and France

France & Korea have diplomatic ties since 1886 and enjoy a good relationship. In terms of investment, we try with KOTRA to maximize the potential opportunities by using special events to connect with French investors and promote Korea as a land of opportunities in Asia. French investments in Korea are significant, with 3.9 bil Euros, ranking 2ne among European countries and all major French companies have invest in Korea in term of production or sales office, with 350 companies employing 28,000 people.

In addition, to expand exports from Korea, French companies have chosen to be present physically in the country. They use Korea as a platform for North-East Asia. Korea works as a hub from French companies to serve the whole of Asia. To some extent, this might explain why France exports more to Korea than the opposite.

As an investment destination, Korea faces competition from Taiwan, Hong-Kong, Singapore and at a lower-level Japan. The French presence in Korea encompasses all sectors of the French economy (large groups, medium size companies and even SMEs). Moreover, France is present in Korea in many different fields, going from chemistry, oil& gas, services, car industry, luxury products, logistics, agrifood, health, cosmetics, energy, etc.

In terms of Regional HQ, until now, French companies have often preferred Singapore or Tokyo, less so Hong-Kong which used to be very attractive but has lost a lot of its attraction power in the last years. We have made a major axis of our strategy to promote Seoul as an ideal regional HQ in Asia.

Can you tell us what Invest KOREA is doing in your country?

As an Honorary Ambassador, I work closely with Invest KOREA and KOTRA Paris team.

We have a special relationship with the French Federation of businesses (MEDEF-International) to which most French companies belong. Of course, we participate to events they organize to connect with Asian countries. This gives us a great opportunity to develop our network and the possibilities of meetings with decisions makers to evangelize them about Korea’s dynamism and strength. When we receive Korean delegations, I open my contacts book to reach the best decision makers and the most appropriate persons in their organization.

As a team, we have decided that we should target not only large corporations which might reinvest in Korea, as most of them are already in the country, but also medium size companies (known as ETI in French) to develop JV with Korean partners. Many French “ETI” show a great interest in establishing partnerships with Korean companies to develop cooperation in Korea (or elsewhere, in third countries). But we need to be put in contact with the Korean companies looking to expand internationally. To increase opportunities, we plan to develop with KOTRA events by sectors, according to the requests coming from Korea. We need the support of IK to connect with Korean companies interested in and able to develop a partnership with an international player.

Another part of our strategy is to target not only companies based in the Paris area but also in the rest of the country. France is, like Korea, a centralized country, but today large regional metropolitan areas have emerged such as Lyon, Toulouse, Marseille or Lille, with a very strong network of prominent companies. Korean delegation coming to France should be ready to visit these cities to develop new links and expand their strategy of cooperation.

Why do you think a company should cooperate with Invest KOREA to invest in Korea?

Korea is a very attractive investment target with solid economic fundamentals, a business-friendly environment, the world best digital infrastructure, an innovative and highly skilled workforce, a rising E-commerce market; it is also an ideal global test bed and a business hub for northeast Asia.

Every company considering Korea should work with Invest KOREA as it is the only entity which provides comprehensive services to foreign companies ranging from consultations, notifications of investments, establishment of corporations, support for business activities to complaint handling for doing business in Korea. Foreign Chambers of Commerce in Korea can provide some services and counseling, but none as extensively and completely as Invest KOREA. Among the unique services of Invest KOREA, relayed by the 36 KOTRA offices in the home countries:

Invest KOREA Plaza (IKP), an incubating facility operated by KOTRA and dedicated to foreign investors.
The Job Expo, supporting employment of foreign-invested companies since 2006.
The Job Fair for Foreign-Invested Companies hosted around November every year.
The Korea Industrial Technology Association recruitment center for scientists and engineers to meet the needs of foreign-invested companies.
One-stop immigration service available from arrival to departure for foreign investors who have met certain qualifications.
And finally, but very important, the Foreign Investment Ombudsman, handling complaints from foreign-invested companies, commissioned by the President of the Republic of Korea.

By Taehwa Hong
Investment Public Relations Team / Invest KOREA
Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA)

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