[EDITORIALS]Marketing KoreaIn the age of global competition, investment by multinational companies is a gauge of a country's ability to compete. Only through foreign investment can we become the center of multinational business in the Asian region. But Korea's investment climate, as seen by the international community, remains largely negative.
This was confirmed by a study by the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea that asked multinational business executives about the business environment in Korea. It was rated lower than the climate in Tokyo, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Singapore in eight categories, including personal income taxation and flexibility of the labor market.
Personal income taxes, especially the 40 percent tax rate at the highest bracket, are considerably higher than tax rates in Hong Kong and Singapore. That is a barrier to inducing foreign investment. Corporate tax rates are also higher, so it is natural that companies would want to do business somewhere else. Korea also received failing grades for the rigidity of its labor market. Even though less than 10 percent of the workers here are organized, aggressive actions by the two labor federations are causes for concern to multinational companies.
The demands of foreign businesses are self-serving, of course, and not all need to be accepted. But the study does show that Korea does not have the kind of business climate that would attract regional headquarters of multinational corporations. It is time to stop talking about globalization and make it a reality.
The government vowed early in the year to promote regional offices here, but there is still just one such operation here from among the world's top 100 companies. Even if there are 10,000 foreign companies operating in Korea, there is still a long way to go.
The study found that Korea's image among executives working outside the country is far worse than that held by those living and working here. The government cannot escape some blame for this marketing failure. We should look at what other countries have done and start organized efforts to promote a positive brand image for Korea.