Seoul Mates

South Korea and Germany are a good match: two highly innovative economies working closely together to take on the challenges of the future. Markets Germany talks to Alexander Hirschle, the director of Germany Trade & Invest’s Seoul office, about business opportunities between the two countries.

September, 2017

Mr. Hirschle, like Germany, South Korea is a modern industrial state with a successful economy. What image do Koreans have of Germany?

Across many sectors, especially when it comes to innovation in medium-sized businesses, Germany is considered “the benchmark” of quality. Products that are “Made in Germany” – both consumer and capital goods – enjoy the highest appreciation in Korea. Also, from a cultural perspective, Germany’s successful reunification is greatly admired in a country that remains divided, just as our composers of classical music are also held in high regard.

You regularly speak with Korean business managers both in Korea and in Germany. Where do they see the business opportunities at the moment?

The creation of research and development facilities in order to drive innovation is seen as a priority, which is why Germany is a popular location. Korean firms are keen on having headquarters or European sales centers in “Dogil” (the Korean word for Germany), due to the size of the market and its central location within the continent. This trend cuts across all sectors of industry.

Which sectors are specifically investing in Germany at the moment?

Most queries and participants at our events come from the electronics and auto industries. Both sectors are subject to strong pressure with regard to innovation and cost efficiency, which goes hand in hand with growing internationalization. Germany is considered a “spearhead” in technologies of the future, such as environmentally-friendly vehicles or renewable energy. Industry 4.0 is also a topic of great interest here in Korea. Furthermore, Korean start-up businesses are increasingly turning their antennae towards Germany.

»In Korea’s capital, business is driven by a culture of “Balli balli” (meaning “Quick, quick!”). «

What services can you offer to such businesses?

We are the first point of contact for local businesses in Korea that are interested in getting involved with Germany. Our office in Seoul is located in the building of the German Chamber of Commerce Abroad (AHK). The queries to Germany Trade & Invest (GTAI) are recorded there, channeled and then passed on to our branch experts in Berlin.

In Korea, the culture is defined by the expression “Balli balli” (meaning “Quick, quick!”). This means that an initial response has to come immediately. The Embassy, the AHK and GTAI work very closely on investor services such as offering support for events, or identifying companies which are interested in the German market. The co-operation is excellent, which has a positive impact on the overall perception of Germany in Korea.

What has been your biggest professional success in the past year?

2016 was the year I started working for the Investment Promotion and Investor Services of GTAI in Korea, so the last year has been dominated by network building. As a general rule, Koreans do business on the basis of trust, which takes a long time to gain. I have been building contacts with key influencers, associations and businesses, and my efforts have already begun to bear fruit. Besides this, we have organized a lot of successful events, which attracted an above-­average number of visitors.

As a result, GTAI and the German Embassy in Seoul will be jointly hosting an event to commemorate the “Day of German Unity” on October 3rd (a national holiday in Germany, which celebrates the anniversary of reunification in 1990: in Seoul, to inform even more Korean businesses of the advantages of investing in Germany.

Photo: Alexander Hirschle | © GTAI/Studio Prokopy