SMEs celebrated for success in exporting

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SMEs celebrated for success in exporting

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Macrogen, a Korean biotech company, saw record exports last year: 43.8 billion won ($36.2 million) out of total revenues of 64.9 billion won, a 70 percent jump year on year. Macrogen analyzes genes not only of humans but also animals and plants. When it started 20 years ago, it was the first company in the Korean market to acquire such technology.

“Each genome has a different life story,” says Seo Jeong-sun, the company’s chairman. “We aim to use these stories and help individuals to avoid diseases they might develop in the future.”

The company focused on foreign sales networks and developing gene data specific to Asian peoples, as research in the area has been led by Western countries. “We have established a network of 180 countries worldwide, and 70 percent of our earnings come from abroad,” said Ginie Lee, a manager at the company.

Komega, another Korean small and mid-sized enterprise (SME), makes perilla oil and exports it to a number of countries, including Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and the United States. After starting in 2013, exports grew rapidly from $120,000 in 2014 to $1 million last year. In fact, roughly 85 percent of its sales are overseas.

Komega’s oil has good shelf life and is well absorbed by the body. The company developed its own patented method to produce the oil without frying perilla seeds.

“Perilla seeds are one of Korea’s most outstanding agricultural products, which contains abundant healthy omega-3 fat and is not commonly produced overseas,” said Chung Hoon-baek, CEO of the company.

These two companies were among 106 companies lauded Wednesday as producers of world-class products from Korea in a program run by the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (Kotra) and the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.

The world-class products are selected from products that have at least $5 million in exports yearly and a 5 percent share of the global market.

There is a separate category for products that aspire to reach those levels in the next seven years.

Macrogen meets the world-class product standards while Komega’s perilla oil was in the aspirational category, officially categorized as a next generation world-class product.

Among 106 companies, 78 were SMEs.

Although Korea’s exports have been generally declining for the last two years, small and mid-sized companies with specialized product portfolios managed to survive and even expand sales abroad.

Exports for the first 11 months of this year fell 7 percent year on year, slumping to $450 billion. They fell 8 percent last year. SMEs with export success are a beacon of hope.

In 2013, SMEs accounted for 32.8 percent of Korea’s total exports and the figure increased to 37.7 percent in September, according to data from the Korea International Trade Association.

“This year’s overall exports declined,” said Kim In-ho, chairman of the association last week. “It is encouraging that smaller companies and start-ups accounted for a larger share of exports.”

Other next generation world-class products include Idis, a digital video recording device manufacturer, which moved into digital video recording from analog early. Hurum, a health food manufacturer, came up with the idea of Jeju Orange Pie, which has become a snack representing the island.

The list of world-class product producers rose from 764 to 824 this year. While 106 companies were newly selected, 46 companies from the existing list were revoked of their status as they failed to maintain their performances.


BY KIM JEE-HEE [kim.jeehee@joongang.co.kr]

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