Don’t forget the little guys

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Don’t forget the little guys

The Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency yesterday introduced a list of 31 strong local small and midsize companies that are penetrating overseas markets during the downturn.

One company is exporting karaoke machines to Japan - the birthplace of the technology - while another is selling air purifiers that are half the size of mainstream products to Hong Kong housewives.

A mobile phone payment system developed by a Korean company has made inroads in the U.S. market, and more than half of the pavement stretching across the United Arab Emirates was turned out by Korean machines.

The leader of Russia’s cellular telecommunications industry? You guessed it - a Korean company.

These small companies have endured the cutthroat corporate environment and entered new overseas markets through endless development, superior quality management and unconventional marketing.

Most well-known Korean brands - from semiconductors and ships to mobile phones and liquid-crystal display television screens - are manufactured by large companies.

The number of made-in-Korea products that rank No. 1 in their respective fields worldwide is shrinking, totaling just 58 as of last year. That’s embarrassingly paltry, particularly compared with China (1,029 top-ranked products on the global market) and Germany (866).

A wide range of long-standing small companies serves as the country’s bedrock of corporate strength and resilience.

We must nurture these companies - which obviously are more than capable of making and selling global-quality products - if we want to maintain export-driven economic growth.

The government has been supportive of small and start-up companies for the last 20 years.

But the country’s top 50 companies are mostly affiliated with conglomerates created before 1970.

Software provider NHN Corp. is the sole self-built company with revenue of more than 1 trillion won ($782.9 million).

Even if they succeed, small companies find it difficult to jump to the ranks of large companies due to consumer preference for household names. The government should concentrate all of its business support to companies equipped with the technology and potential to win over markets abroad.

This will encourage many more entrepreneurs and small companies to look overseas.

These firms should be allowed to flourish, which would allow them to contribute to a diverse, healthy and sustainable economic environment.

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