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Korea deploys manager-level officials to receive top Chinese entrepreneurs

Korea deploys manager-level officials to receive top Chinese entrepreneurs

Posted July. 07, 2014 01:45,   


“It was reported that early this month, Robin Li (Li Yanhong), chairman and CEO of China`s search engine giant Baidu, strongly requested the Chinese commerce ministry’s investment promotion bureau to include him among the speakers of the forum. This forum must have been very important for him.”

This is what a Chinese headquarters official with Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency or KOTRA had to say on Sunday. The comments were related with the part 2 of the "Korea-China economy and commerce cooperation forum" held at Shilla Hotel in Seoul on Friday, wherein officials from state organizations in the economy-related field and private companies from the two countries gathered.

Chairman Li emphasized the importance of Korea-China cooperation even by citing proverbs of the two countries: “When two persons join hands, they can even cut off steel,” and “If united, people will survive, and if divided, they will die.” Such proactive moves by Baidu, China’s largest Internet portal that posted 31.9 billion yuan (5.14 billion U.S. dollars) in sales last year, drew keen attention from Korean media outlets including The Dong-A Ilbo.

Following Chairman Li’s suit, Chairman Tian Guoli of China Bank, the world’s ninth largest bank, and Chairman Nan Cunhui of Chint Group, China`s largest low-voltage electrical equipment producer, took the podium at the forum. They are business leaders who are in spotlight around the world as well.

However, people who took the podium to represent the Korea side were working-level officials rather than conglomerate owners or CEO-level business leaders. Kim Seung-hwan, executive director overseeing China business at Amore-Pacific, was the only person in attendance to represent a private firm from Korea. Even the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy, a state-run think tank, deployed as a speaker the head of its China business team, rather than its head or division head. KOTRA reportedly asked the institute to the last minute to send a division head, but it did not accept the request.

China is the world’s largest market and the most important partner of the Korean economy. With Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Korea, Korean companies are set to find new opportunities in their China business. Hundreds of top-level economic officials, business owners and CEOs of China, whom Korean organizations and companies would hardly have a chance to meet even through dozens of visits to China, came to Korea on their own.

As such, Korea’s selection of speakers who hardly match the Chinese visitors is truly regretful. It is feared that visiting Chinese leaders might even have doubted Korea’s willingness to cooperate. Korea needs to sincerely reflect upon the reason entrepreneurs of China’s flagship firms, including the chairman of Baidu, bothered to serve as speakers and convey a message to the Korea side in person.