U.S. Department of Commerce data from the first half of 2012 shows that North Dakota’s commercial exports to Korea are up over 112 percent over the same period 2011. This growth is due in part to the hands-on relationship between North Dakota and the Republic of Korea, which has been actively cultivated since the conception of the North Dakota Trade Office in 2004.
Building Business Relationships
In July, Jiwon Kim, NDTO Manager of International Business Development, is a native of Seoul, spent three weeks in Korea meeting with potential buyers on behalf of seven North Dakota companies and following-up on past meetings. The July visit was just a smaller part of the larger relationship-building initiative between NDTO and South Korea.
As one of the top export destinations for value-added agricultural products, NDTO makes visits to South Korea a priority. The first trade mission to Korea was March 2008, and NDTO quickly decided to bring potential buyers back to North Dakota through a Reverse Trade Mission the following fall. Today, Jiwon Kim visits Seoul twice a year on behalf of North Dakota companies.
For Koreans, relationships are all important – “cold calls” don’t work and introductions are crucial. Koreans want to do business with people with whom they have formed a personal connection or whereby a mutual intermediary has made an introduction. Jiwon Kim, and recognizes the nuances of Korean business culture. With his assistance, many North Dakota companies have developed successful relationships with Korean buyers.
J&J Corporation, a producer of identity preserved food grains and soybeans, is one such company. J&J Corporation exported 1,350MT of food-grade soybeans to Korea in June and 2,000MT in August. These high-quality soybeans will be used to make tofu, soymilk, soybean paste (DeonJang) and bean sprouts.
Business develops when visitors from abroad see first-hand what North Dakota has to offer and the openness of working together to educate partners overseas. As a result of relationships built through trade, many Korean nationals have come to North Dakota to live, work and study.
In October 2010, Korea National Emergency Management Agency official SangKyou Shin visited North Dakota to learn about commercial opportunities as a delegate of the South Korea Reverse Trade Mission. That that time, he learned about the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program, one of the many international programs offered through North Dakota State University (NDSU).
Today, SangKyou Shin is living in Fargo and researching emergency management standards of advanced countries at NDSU. Like most visitors, Shin will return to his country after completing his research with permanent ties to North Dakota.