KOREA International Trade Association (KITA) hosted a ceremony marking Korea’s 46th annual Trade Day at Coex on November 30, with 1,200 attendees, including President Lee Myung-bak and Choi Kyung-hwan, the Minister of the Ministry of Knowledge Economy, as well as key economy persons, and owners and employees of outstanding export companies being recognized at the ceremony. This year’s Trade Day is especially remarkable as Korea was recently ranked among the top 10 global exporting countries, ahead of Russia and Canada and is expected to be ranked among the ninth by the end of the year, with its annual trade surplus hitting a record high of more than US$40 billion this year. KITA predicts Korea’s exports will reach US$360 billion by the end of the year, taking a 3% share in the global export market for the first time in history.
“KITA will pursue the transformation into a state-of-the-art digital organization,” said SaKong Il, the Chairman of KITA. He also emphasized the need for transformation as industrial structures as well as the way people think have completely changed from the 1960’s when Korea’s Export Day was first created to commemorate the first US$100 million in exports. Export Day has evolved into “Trade Day” over the past 46 years, with Korea’s trade volume increasing 4,000 fold.
At the press conference prior to the ceremony, SaKong said, “Korea’s trade record is better than ever, while the global economy is experiencing its worst period since the Great Depression in the 1930’s and the majority of major countries’ trade is decreasing. It is because of our export companies’ and their employees’ painstaking efforts, continuous restructuring procedures since the economic crisis of the late 1990’s and active development of new, innovative products. Without small and medium businesses’ effort and cutting-edge technologies, Korea’s main export industries such as semiconductors, display panels, cell phones and automobiles couldn’t have accomplished this outstanding result. Korea’s exports are expected to grow by two digits next year as the global economy is expected to improve, as well as through international cooperation at the G20 Summit.”
SaKong expressed an optimistic outlook on the economy and trade, pointing out international policy coordination led by the G-20 will prevent a long recession and that signs of a recovery can already be seen. However, the biggest challenge that Korean exporters face in times of financial crisis is credit crunch. “Many companies have been suffering from credit crunch following the financial crisis. The government and KITA have made preemptive efforts to deal with this situation after sensing the difficulties and will continue to strive to resolve it,” said SaKong.
At the Trade Day ceremony, 876 individuals who contributed to the expansion of Korea’s exports were recognized and awarded. 1,504 companies received awards for achieving export levels of between US$10 billion and US$15 billion. Hyundai Heavy Industries won the US$15 billion tower award, Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering won the US$10 billion tower award, and Hyundai Oil Bank won the US$5 billion tower award. The number of individual awardees increased by 42 this year, while the number of companies that won awards increased by 101 despite a decrease in export volume compared to the prior year due to eased selection requirements.
Trade Day also featured various events, such as international conferences, on/off-line business meetings and an online job fair for the trade sector. On December 7, KITA hosted the “Post Crisis, New International Trade System” conference in collaboration with PIIE (the Peterson Institute for International Economics), a renowned think tank of the U.S., inviting scholars and experts of international trade systems such as Pascal Rami, the secretary general of WTO, and Ann Krueger, the former first deputy managing director of the IMF. Pascal Rami’s visit to Korea is especially significant since his visit took place immediately following the WTO’s trade minister’s meeting.
KITA, Korea’s representative trade organization, is irreplaceable on Korea’s journey to becoming the world’s leading trade partner, and will strive to serve as a shortcut to realizing a per capita GDP of US$40,000 by continuously reviewing all of the tasks and identifying new areas of business with new ways of thinking.