It all started with a shipwreckThe Netherlands Embassy in Seoul last week presented The Order of Oranje Nassau, a highly prestigious award, to Hong Ki-hwa, president of the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency.
The Dutch Embassy said the award recognized Mr. Hong’s contribution to expanding trade between Korea and Netherlands.
The award was presented by the ambassador, Hans Heinsbroek.
“The Netherlands has considerable expertise in distribution. Kotra acknowledged this strength and helped establish the Korea European Distribution Center that assists Korean companies to penetrate European markets via the Netherlands,” said Mr. Heinsbroek.
The center, whose clients are small and mid-size Korean companies, is located in Rotterdam. “There are 80 Korean companies in the Netherlands and we are glad to be their host,” the ambassador said.
Mr. Hong replied, “We know that the 17th century Dutch sailor Hendrick Hamel arrived in Korea as a result of a shipwreck. We have long celebrated his importance to our country because he was the first foreigner to open our country to western culture. To us, this will always have historical significance.”
Mr. Hong went on to say that the Korean trade agency opened its first European office in Amsterdam in 1966. Today there are 24 offices in 22 European countries.
“Evidently our decision has proven very fruitful,” Mr. Hong said.
“During the past 40 years, trade and investment between the two countries has flourished and bilateral trade volume surpassed $6 billion (7.2 trillion won) in 2005 from just $7 million in 1966. Mr. Hong praised the Netherlands role: “To Korean companies, the Netherlands is a gateway to the European market. Rotterdam is famous for its well established logistics infrastructure. That’s why Kotra established the Korea European Distribution Center in Rotterdam in 2004 and it is now regarded as a highly successful business concept.”
During the evening OTB Solar received the Hamel Trade Award for newcomers.
“South Korea gets 97 percent of its energy from oil and gas and it has given itself an objective,” said Mr. Heinsbroek. “Korea wants to increase its use of renewable energy by 5 percent. OTB is a energy renewable company that manufactures solar cell equipment. This year the company has installed a 30-megawatt solar cell for KPE, which has the power to provide electricity to 10,000 households. We hope this will soon become a larger contract.”
The Hamel Trade Award is handed out every year to businesses that contributed to trade relations between the two countries. This year the jury was Chung Tong-soo, head of Invest Korea; Jean-Jacques Grauhar, secretary general of the European Union Chambers of Commerce in Korea; Max Smits, the Dutch Business Club in Korea’s chairman; and the Dutch ambassador.
Other nominees were Frico Cheese, which provided the cheese for the 5 million Lotte cheeseburgers sold in Korea this year, and Netherlands Airport Consultants, which has been operating as an advisor to Incheon International Airport.
by Lee Ho-jeong