중앙데일리

These organizations help members conduct business in Korea with ease.

Feb 19,2008
When President-elect Lee Myung-bak campaigned prior to his election on Dec. 19, one of his main pledges was to create a “business-friendly environment” in Korea. If elected, he said, he would focus on attracting as much foreign investment as possible during his presidency.
Now that Lee has won the election, he’s already announced some of his plans to accomplish this goal. But the president-elect isn’t alone in his efforts to make foreign investment easy in Korea.
Foreign companies and business professionals in Korea also create their own economic organizations here to promote their common interests. American executives, for example, join the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea, or AmCham.
But what do these foreign business organizations do?
Many foreign companies such as Nike do business here, or they invest in Korean companies. But these foreign companies and their executives often face difficulties. Foreign corporations often face hefty taxes or strict regulations that prevent them from doing business as they’d like.
In order to ease these troubles, these foreign business organizations help their respective members.
Through the aid of these foreign economic organizations, foreign business professionals make the Korean government hear their voices.
Standing by their members, foreign economic groups can, for example, request that the Korean government ease regulations.
These groups publish a variety of reports to let the central government know about different issues they face when doing business here. They also lobby Korean policy circles.
Recently, Lone Star Funds, a U.S. investment firm that belongs to AmCham, came under fire in Korea for allegedly tinkering with stock prices of Korea Exchange Bank. In response, Tami Overby, the secretary general of AmCham, backed up Lone Star.
To put it simply, these foreign economic groups try to create a business-friendly environment for their companies.
Groups like these operate in other countries, too. AmCham has many counterparts in major cities such as Tokyo, Hong Kong and Beijing. These groups help their country’s businesses abroad.
Other examples of such groups include the European Union Chamber of Commerce in Korea, or Eucck. This European business group does similar work as AmCham. The Eucck provides help for Europeans who want to do business with Korean partners. It even has an office in Paris in order to help Korean executives working in Europe.
Another example of such a group is the Seoul Japan Club, a gathering of Japanese businessmen who work in Korea. Other countries, including Canada and China, also have their own economic organizations. These groups are smaller than AmCham or the Eucck.
These foreign economic groups don’t just pursue the interests of their own members. They also help Korean companies.
Key AmCham officials visit American governing bodies and companies every year in order to promote Korean companies and help them attract foreign investment. This is called “door-knocking,” because AmCham officials literally knock on the doors of important figures to ask them to help Korean companies.
Sometimes AmCham officials travel around U.S. cities with Korean businessmen and hold meetings for investor relations.
In a step forward, AmCham is doing charity work in Korea with its charitable foundation, called Partners for the Future.
The foundation supports poor Koreans and gives scholarships to Korean children.
“We should give back to Korean society as much as we earn in Korea,” said Jeffrey Jones, a former president of AmCham and a founder of Partners for the Future, explaining why AmCham started the foundation.
Many foreign economic organizations are learning to create a win-win strategy for business to succeed in Korea. This way, these groups can forge tight bonds with Korea through diverse economic, cultural and social activities.
In addition to these foreign groups, Korea also has many local organizations that protect Korean business professionals’ rights.
The Federation of Korean Industries, the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Korea Employers Federation, Korea International Trade Association and Korea Federation of Small and Medium Business are called the nation’s big five economic organizations.
The Federation of Korean Industries, which the CEOs of conglomerates launched in 1961, is considered the economic organization with the biggest influence over the nation’s economy. After the 1997 Asian financial crisis, this group took the initiative to work with the Korean government in scrapping and merging ailing Korean companies. Under President-elect Lee’s transition team, the organization is now busy thinking of ways to revive the sluggish economy.
The Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry represents the nation’s businessmen who operate small and midsize companies. Under the Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun administrations, this organization played a bigger role than the Federation of Korean Industries.
Korea Employers Federation, established in 1970, specializes in labor and management disputes. When major labor disputes take place, this organization finds solutions from a company’s point of view.
Korea International Trade Association takes on the responsibility to export Korean goods overseas. Since its establishment in 1946, it is the oldest economic organization among the nation’s big five.
Korea Federation of Small and Medium Business was set up in 1962 in order to protect the nation’s small and midsize companies, which are generally less competitive than large companies when it comes to technology and funds.
Other than these economic organizations, there are more organizations such as the Korea Federation of Banks, the Credit Finance Association and Korea Iron and Steel Association.


By Pyo Jae-yong JoongAng Ilbo [so@joongang.co.kr]


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