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[Editorial] Applause for Korea’s Export Patriots

Posted December. 03, 2008 05:19,   


“During the month of Ramadan, I started work after midnight and passed myself off as a Muslim to avoid terrorist attacks. I even considered marketing air conditioners at pyramids.”

Early this year, a manager at Samsung Electronics sent his colleagues a lengthy e-mail on his 20 years of experience as an exporter. Through the efforts of many such people like the manager who worked at deserts in the Middle East and the most remote parts of Africa, Korea, whose main exports were wigs in the early 1960s, became the world’s 11th largest exporter.

In 1948, when the Korean government was established, Korea was the world 100th biggest trading nation with a meager 30 million U.S. dollars, half that of Cameroon. Since then, Korea’s trade has grown exponentially from one billion dollars in 1967, 10 billion dollars in 1974, 100 billion dollars in 1988 and 700 billion dollars last year. This year, two-way trade in Korea will reach 800 billion dollars, including 400 billion dollars in exports. Among the world’s top 10 exporting countries, it took an average of 17.2 years for their exports to increase from 100 billion dollars to 400 billion dollars. Korea achieved the feat in just 13 years, however.

Companies that export ships, cars and semiconductors have played a major role in significantly boosting Korean exports by advancing into diverse markets. No less important has been the role of robust small companies. Celebrating Trade Promotion Day yesterday, those small enterprises were awarded export tower prizes. Among them was Suntech, which owns 60 percent of the world market for heating elements for rear-view mirrors, and ITWell that outpaced Japanese companies by supplying personal digital assistants, or PDAs, to major airlines such as American Airlines and Delta Air Lines. Politicians and the government are supposed to help well-performing companies through friendly laws and policies, but instead often hinder their business with excessive regulation and interference.

Stellar small companies can emerge unscathed from a crisis. The German economy, which makes up 20.5 percent of the world export market, has never been affected by an economic crisis. It has 866 items, each of which has the biggest market share in the world.

The Korean economy is largely dependent on trade, so exports are nothing less than a lifeline. Exports plunged to a seven-year low last month due to a slowdown in the global economy. Outbound shipments to China, Korea’s largest export market, plummeted 27.8 percent.

Now is the time for the Korean government to join forces with entrepreneurs who have made inroads into the world market with creativity and competitive spirit, and exporters going all out to sell goods overseas to ride out the economic crisis. The nation pays tribute to these entrepreneurs and exporters on the occasion of Trade Promotion Day.