Hi-tech Yorkshire wins South Korea-UK 'first'

Published Tuesday, 19th May 2015
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For the first time, a business delegation led by a representative of the South Korean government is to visit a British region outside London.

It is hoped the visit to Yorkshire could lead to more two-way trade and investment in the UK.

The 30-strong group is in Rotherham and Sheffield on Tuesday May 19 led by Mr. Han Junghwa, who heads the Republic of Korea’s (ROK) Small and Medium Business Administration, a government department with a £4.7bn budget. 

The visit has huge potential. The delegation brings the combined trading power of 35,500 South Korean companies and, through Mr. Han, its SME sector – which comprises of 99.9% of all companies in the country. 

South Korea invested £7.6bn in the UK in 2014, second in the EU only to the Netherlands. UK investment in the ROK over the same period was £7.9bn.

UK-ROK trade in 2014 totalled £8.4bn, 21 per cent up on 2013. The UK is now South Korea’s second-largest trading partner among EU countries. Exports of UK goods increased 82 per cent year-on-year in 2012, making South Korea the single largest growth market for UK exports. The country’s SME sector generates some £63.3bn-worth of exports a year.

The high-profile event is a success conceived and delivered by INKE, the International Network of Korean Entrepreneurs – with 1,500 member companies in 49 countries worldwide – and the Rotherham-based chairman of its UK chapter, Dabriel Choi.

INKE was involved last year in transactions worth £319m. Also heavily involved is KOVA, the Korean Business Venture Association – a network of more than 34,000 firms in South Korea.

Main support for the visit is from Rotherham Investment and Development Office (RiDO) and the University of Sheffield.

RiDO – the regeneration arm of the Council – had previously helped Mr. Choi locate his trade-and-investment support company, TRoom, in Rotherham.

Since 2000, RiDO has played a direct role in the creation of 26,700 jobs and helped create another 6,400. Through direct involvement it has also safeguarded another 26,600 and helped safeguard 7,000.

Further backing comes from the UK Trade and Investment organisation, the South Korean Embassy, Leeds and Liverpool City Councils, Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership and South Yorkshire business representatives.

The visitors – senior business people and leaders of trade and other business organisations – are meeting business and local authority leaders. They are in Leeds on Monday May 18, where they will also meet representatives from Liverpool.

“This is a massively significant visit, all the more so because it is led by Mr. Han, whose role is equivalent in the UK to the most senior departmental civil servant, Permanent Secretary,” said Mr. Choi, managing director of TRoom. 

“A major attraction for the delegation is Rotherham’s Advanced Manufacturing Park and the thrust of advanced manufacturing within Sheffield City Region.”

Mr. Choi, who currently represents Hyundai Glovis and LG Electronics LED divisions in the UK, continued: “The visit will raise South Yorkshire’s profile in South Korea as a manufacturing base and introduce innovative, entrepreneurial Korean companies to the region to create mutually advantageous co-operation.”

The Leader of the Council, Councillor Chris Read said: “Our South Korean visitors are aware of advanced manufacturing here and our proposed Innovation District – a cluster of hi-tech firms in the Sheffield City Region. They want to talk to companies they could partner and we’re  showing them we are, supportive and active in bringing investment and quality long-term jobs into the region.

RiDO head, Business and Retail Investment Manager Tim O’Connell, added: “We want to build a relationship with South Korea and get on the radar of investors – show them we have a strong manufacturing supply chain and that we’re well positioned for those wanting to get into the European market.”

At the world-leading Advanced Manufacturing Park in Rotherham, delegates will tour the Rolls-Royce Factory of the Future – part of Sheffield University’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre with Boeing. They will also attend a conference and networking sessions at the AMP Technology Centre, a base for small hi-tech firms.