S. Korea’s export boom through China coming to end, should diversify to Europe
Bilateral talks with European countries expected to discuss economic security
Published : Jun 29, 2022 - 11:23
Updated : Jun 29, 2022 - 12:21
Choi Sang-mok, South Korea’s senior presidential secretary for economic affairs, speaks to reporters at a press room at Madrid at 7 p.m. (local time) on Tuesday. Yonhap

MADRID -- South Korea‘s senior presidential secretary for economic affairs said the export boom era through China that South Korea has enjoyed over the past 20 years is coming to an end, adding South Korea needs to diversify its markets to Europe.

“As you know, China’s growth is slowing and is shifting to a domestic-oriented strategy,” Choi Sang-mok, senior economic secretary, told reporters at Madrid, where the NATO summit is being held. There, member nations seek to boost security and economic ties against Russia and China.
“The export boom era through China, which we’ve enjoyed over the last 20 years, is coming to an end. That’s why we need a market that’s an alternative to China, and we need to diversify,” he said.

Europe is the best alternative, he said because it is possible to find new major industries in addition to traditional industries, such as chips and steel. Also, with the growing importance of economic security, it is necessary for South Korea to expand its scope of economic and security cooperation beyond the US.

“Europe is the second-largest market in the world after the US,” Choi said, adding that its combined gross domestic product is $17 trillion, similar to China.

“New export markets such as nuclear power plants and defense are opening up here recently due to recent changes in the international situation and carbon-neutrality targets,” he said. “Moreover, Europe is leading the future industry and trends with the US.”

The continent can be a touchstone for South Korea to prepare for future industries because of its advanced space industry and application of strict environmental and safety standards, he said.

The economic secretary sees Europe and South Korea’s industrial structures as developing very complementarily, as the two regions are becoming partners in supply chain and technology cooperation.

Yoon’s economic diplomacy at NATO summit

Yoon’s visit to Madrid is the beginning of “sales diplomacy” for opening up new export channels for South Korea‘s flagship industries, he said, adding this is “for the quantum jump of our export power, which has been slowing down recently.”

During a number of bilateral talks with European nations, Yoon will make “all-out efforts” to develop economic cooperation.

Yoon will hold talks with the Netherlands, Poland and Denmark on Wednesday; and the Czech Republic on Thursday.

He will seek to win nuclear power plant contracts from countries such as Poland and the Czech Republic, where bidding is imminent. He also plans to create favorable conditions for cooperation with countries who have recently announced plans to build new nuclear power plants, including the UK, the Netherlands and Romania. He is also expected to discuss defense cooperation with Poland.

South Korea will also seek to strengthen supply chains of high-tech industries such as semiconductors, batteries and core minerals with European countries. Discussions about chip supply chains are expected with the Netherlands and the UK, while talks about battery electric vehicles are expected with the Czech Republic and Poland. With Australia and Canada, strengthening the supply chain of key minerals is the subject of discussion, the senior economic secretary said.

South Korea will also establish a foundation for cooperation with Europe for “future growth” industries.

“The first is renewable energy,” he said, adding the expansion of mutual investment with renewable energy powers such as Denmark is expected.

Space industry cooperation is also expected. With the recent successful launch of the Nuri rocket, South Korea has become one of the world’s seven largest space industries. “Cooperation in the space industry with France, a powerhouse in the space industry, is also expected to be discussed,” he said.

By Shin Ji-hye
Korea Herald correspondent (