SEOUL, March 17 (Korea Bizwire) – Hundreds of South Korean diplomats and business officials gathered at a hotel Thursday to explore new markets overseas amid the lifting of sanctions on Iran and the effectuation of a bilateral free trade pact with China, the Foreign Ministry said.
The annual session brings together South Korean ambassadors and other chiefs of overseas missions to offer country-specific advice to local businessmen who want to expand their presence abroad.
This year, 146 chiefs held more than 710 counseling sessions with representatives from about 260 companies ranging from Samsung C&T and GS E&C to small and medium enterprises, according to the ministry.
Among the most popular destinations was Iran, which has recently emerged as a promising market after the lifting of economic sanctions over its nuclear program.
Kim Seung-ho, Seoul’s top envoy to Tehran, was among the busiest diplomats at the one-on-one counseling session.
On Thursday alone, Kim met with dozens of officials from 20 companies pushing to tap into the Iranian market with a population of 80 million. He said more than 50 companies had applied to get tips from him.
“I have talked with many companies dealing in home appliances, food, bathroom tiles and other products and realized that they are desperate to advance into the Iranian market,” he told Yonhap News Agency. “As an ambassador, I felt a great sense of responsibility and the urgent need to work harder to cater to their needs.”
Many of the companies asked him about the political stability in the Islamic republic, overall business environment and ways to find their Iranian counterparts among other things, the ambassador said.
Kim has scheduled additional meetings outside of the one-day session to meet the high demand for counseling, according to the ministry.
China, South Korea’s biggest trading partner, has also drawn more attention following the effectuation of a bilateral free trade agreement late last year, while India, Vietnam and Myanmar have attracted investors with their stable economic growth and political regime change.’
Speaking at a luncheon with the ambassadors and business leaders, Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se stressed the importance of finding new opportunities abroad.
“This is a critical time at which we must find new growth engines for economic revival despite the many difficulties and challenges,” he said. “We plan to actively use all of our overseas missions as outposts for economic diplomacy.”
Firms taking part in the event mostly met with the ambassadors to ask for help in winning overseas orders, information on local conditions, or to promote their projects, according to the ministry.
They represented industries as diverse as trade, construction, IT, food, steel and textiles.