Business

Interview with His Excellency Hyung-won Suh, Ambassador of the Republic of Korea

By 9 July 2015

The ties between Croatia and the Republic of Korea are getting stronger, and they are not restricted to incoming Korean tourists. TCN visited the Embassy of the Republic of Korea to meet its Ambassador to find out more.

Q1. Korea started its financial and economic growth by turning to education, research and development. Today, it is one of the most successful economies in the world. Where does Croatia fit in as a partner, and in which particular industries?

For Korean business circles that are seeking business or investment opportunities abroad, Croatia can be a good partner in several aspects.

Firstly, Croatia has fascinating tourist resources originating from geographical features and cultural heritage. As those attractions are known in Korea, the number of Korean tourists to Croatia has sharply increased and will continue to do. This will give Korean investors business chances in the tourism sector

Secondly, because of its geo-strategic location between the EU countries and non-EU West Balkan countries, Croatia has a huge potential to become a regional hub in transportation, distribution, energy etc. Korean companies can use this advantage for expanding their market to Southeastern Europe as well as the EU.

Lastly, Croatia has become a new family of the EU-Korea Free Trade Agreement. So, now Korean companies have easier access to the Croatian market, and vice versa. This will further expand trade between our two countries in various sectors, such as shipbuilding, medicine and food industries.

Q2. With more than 400,000 Korean tourists expected in 2015 and direct flights currently in negotiations, we have to ask, are you satisfied with your cooperation with the Croatian Tourism Board, and are they providing incentives to increase the number of Korean tourists?

My Embassy has been keeping good cooperative relations with the Croatian Tourism Board (HTZ). We have cooperated in translating sightseeing guide booklets or tourist information signs into Korean, which gives convenience and a good impression to Korean tourists. I hope that this kind of consideration will be expanded to many tourist attractions beyond Zagreb.

And in recent days, Croatian Government has been making efforts to induce Korean tourists more. For example, The Ministry of Tourism will open its office in Seoul, Korea. HTZ held a business workshop, SELL CROATIA, in Seoul on June 10 this year. The workshop was very successful to the extent that more than 90 business people from 60 Korean tourist companies participated in it. These initiatives will contribute to attracting more Koreans to Croatia.

Q3. The increased interest by Koreans in Croatia is clearly evident. What Croatian initiatives and businesses are evident in Seoul?

Since Croatia’s accession to the EU, Croatian Government and companies have been gradually increasing their interest in the Korean market.

To give you a few examples, five Croatian major food companies, Agrokor, Kras, Badel 1862, Vindija and Dimes, made their appearances at the Seoul Food Fair 2015 for the first time in May this year. Ten Croatian companies in the shipbuilding industry participated in the Korea International Boat Show last May. We expect that these new initiatives will lead to an export of Croatian products to the Korean market.

And the Croatian Agency for Investment and Competitiveness (AIK) has been engaged in activities to induce Korean investors, including through participating in the Korea Overseas Investment Fair last June.

However, Croatia’s business initiatives in Korea have not been so evident until now.

Q4. What has been accomplished by the Croatian-Korean business club over the last 12 months? It seems like there is a lot going on but without well-deserved media attention.

In just one year since it was established, the Croatia-Korea Business Club has made remarkable progress.

Its members have largely increased, including leading business groups and academic institutions of Croatia. This means that the Croatian business circle’s interest in, and awareness of, Korea and the Korean market have greatly increased during the last year.

And the Club has proactively helped both countries' businessmen with their business plans and activities related to each other's market. The Club assisted a Korean company in importing Croatian beer and, as a result, Zagrebacka Pivovara started to export Ozujsko beer to Korea from last March. The Club also helped Korean cosmetic companies to form a partnership with Croatian companies and now Korean high-tech cosmetics are selling in the Croatian market.

The most remarkable achievement till now may be that the Club persuaded and helped Croatian leading food enterprises to participate in the Seoul Food Fair last May. This participation seems to stimulate the participant companies to see the huge markets of East Asian countries.

The Club’s proactive efforts to help both countries’ business will continue and will make a positive difference in business relations between Korean and Croatia.

Q5. Is there interest in the Croatian IT industry, in other words, which Croatian industries are Korean companies interested in, both as buyers and as investors?

Until now, Korean investment in Croatia has been far from satisfactory. However, Korean business people have increasingly shown their interest in some industries, such as ICT, Energy, Logistics, Pharmacy and Tourism.

Last year the Korean Embassy, in collaboration with the Office of World Bank in Zagreb, held an ICT workshop to explore possible cooperation between Korea and Croatia in the ICT sector. Now some Korean companies have been interested in projects such as an e-learning school system and broadband internet development in Croatia.

And there are ongoing plans for investment in the pharmaceutical and tourism industry in Croatia. Korean global enterprises also have serious interest in the energy sector of Croatia.

As Croatian public institutions and private companies have sought for various kinds of partnership with Korean companies in recent years, I expect Korean business circles will increasingly get involved in the Croatian market.

Q6. What advice do you have for Croatian businesses looking to enter the Korean market?

Korean market is one of the most competitive markets in the world. Korean consumers are so demanding that only products with high quality and competitive pricing can survive in the market. So, some business people even say that if they succeed in Korean market then they can win in any market in the world. In this sense, I’d like to recommend Croatian companies to proactively knock on the door of the Korean market

I also would like to recommend Croatian companies to fully make use of the Korea-EU Free Trade Agreement. In addition, it is advisable to step up various activities to let Croatian quality products and high technology become known to consumers in Korea.

In reality, some Croatian companies successfully have penetrated into Korean market and some are trying to do so. For example, the Croatian manufacturer of radio transmitters, RIZ, exported products to Korea to the value of about 3 million US dollars last year. Zagrebacka Pivovara started to export Ozujsko beer to Korea from last March. The Croatian shipyard Uljanik exports marine motors for the large shipbuilding industry in Korea.

I expect that companies’ aggressive efforts will lead to the export of their products to Korean market.

Q7. Finally, even hard-working ambassadors need to relax a little. Where are your favorite places in Croatia, and why?

I like hiking in the mountains, hills, valleys and forests. Here I very often go to Medvednica (Sljeme), Maksimir Park and Plitvice. Whenever I am walking there, I feel the invigorating nature. And when I have much time, I love driving to and sightseeing historical towns on the coast.

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