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Strategy, action keys to business success

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Oct 16,2006
SHANGHAI ― Prudence is a virtue, but Korean investors considering business in China may miss the boat if they delay too long. Park Han-jin, senior manager at the Shanghai office of the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency, is author of the book, “China, 10 Years From Now.” Mr. Park asserted that marketing should be a priority for Korean firms facing oversupply problems in China, the world’s fastest growing economy. China had an excess inventory of 20 million cell phones and 2 million cars last year, Mr. Park said. Against that risk, however, could be big a payoff. “The time is ripe for taking action, not discussion,” he said in an interview. Q. Please explain the latest business trend in Shanghai. What sets Shanghai apart from other cities in China? A. Unlike Korea, China has immense land and each region has its own traits. For this reason, when the government attempts reform, simultaneous nationwide enforcement is nearly impossible. Thus the government has chosen Shanghai as the starting point. The city doesn’t have a large number of manufacturing facilities. Rather, Shanghai has placed emphasis on distribution, commerce and finance. While Beijing is frequently called the capital of politics and economics, Shanghai is referred to as the center of business. This year the city is expected to see the portion of tertiary industry, or service industry, surpass that of secondary industry, or manufacturing. Now that Korean companies have passed a peak in manufacturing investment, more are projected to enter this emerging megalopolis. Korean companies operating in China are increasingly training Chinese employees for high positions. What is your opinion? Using workers dispatched from Korea is causing an immense cost for each company. Most of them are not trained in the language and have a hard time getting accustomed to this country. This is why their radius of work-related performance is limited to the office, which means they cannot get engaged in spontaneous marketing activities. It is obvious that Korean companies will constantly increase the proportion of local workers. Larger firms will hire and send them to Korea for training and accordingly Koreans may be outstripped in their job status in China. China-related majors at Korean universities, which have sprouted like mushrooms of late, will have to worry about their future prospects. Also, Korean workers at Chinese operations should make bigger efforts to understand the country. I’ve seen many of them watching Korean TV shows via satellite receivers, but not reading local newspapers. What is the key element that Koreans should keep in mind for operating a business in China? Above all, Korea should drop exhaustive discussion. They should approach the country with elaborate strategy, not scale. Busan, for instance, has made the right decision to withdraw its plan to establish itself as an international port city that can outstrip Shanghai. I recommend that Korean entrepreneurs come up with ideas to excite Chinese people who are prone to boredom. People here say on their TV shows that they lack fun elements. We see a lot of passersby gather at the sight of events that do not have much significance. In those cases, marketers may consider adopting guerilla-marketing tactics, such as mobilizing sales promoters with eye-catching garments across the downtown area to distribute new products or leaflets. Regarding the Korean wave, the so-called “hallyu,” what is the reality in China? I see many Koreans take foreign visitors to Korean restaurants, let them eat kimchi and ask them what it tastes like. Garnering a positive response makes Koreans very proud and satisfied. It is true that Korean dramas and entertainers have gained massive popularity in China. But we need to ponder whether we have been excessively outspoken about the phenomenon. Chinese people, who also have great self-respect and pride in their own culture, may feel antipathy towards the big fuss we created. China’s show business is already showing moves to foster its own entertainment icons that may replace the top spots that have been occupied by Korean pop stars like Rain (known here as “Bi”). For example, a 22-year-old singer, Li Yuchun, last year became the most popular figure in the country. Korea needs to diversify its content and target audiences to thrive in this exploding market. by Seo Ji-eun


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