[Herald Interview] ‘S. Korea can be a gateway to Asia’: FKCCI Managing Director

By Kim Bo-gyung
  • Published : Oct 29, 2019 - 09:41
  • Updated : Oct 29, 2019 - 09:49

Amid a steady rise in the number of French entrepreneurs tapping into Korea, the new managing director of the French-Korean Chamber of Commerce and Industry said South Korea can become a gateway to Asia on the back of a host of factors that makes it an appealing business location.

“South Korea has a lot of assets for foreign companies with highly qualified labor, supportive policies, an extensive network of FTAs and FEZs. Korea can be seen as a convenient base for investment and to establish production facilities to export across Asia -- it can play the role of a gateway to Asia,” FKCCI Managing Director Cedric Legrand told The Korea Herald earlier this month at the FKCCI office in southern Seoul.

Similarities between Korea and France -- a middle-sized democracy and innovation-centered strong economy -- are favorable factors for French companies and investors seeking to do business here.

Legrand, who was tapped to serve as the FKCCI’s managing director this July, comes with a background in law, over 10 years of industry experience and ties with Korea as a French-Korean.

“One of my top priorities as a top official FKCCI is to help more French companies establish businesses in Korea,” Legrand said. 

French-Korean Chamber of Commerce and Industry Managing Director Cedric Legrand speaks at a forum “The Fourth Industrial Revolution in the Automotive Industry” in September at the National Assembly. (FKCCI)

Part of Legrand’s task in assisting its members is addressing their difficulties.

“Regarding concerns … mainly about nontariff barriers. There are some difficulties … in obtaining visas … there is currently a quota (in Korea) of one foreigner per five Korean employees,” Legrand said.

“The bidding procedure as well as the certification process of products are not easy. There is not one interlocutor in the Korean administration but several actors to address to certify a product.”

Helping its members navigate such bumps along the way and prosper here is a key objective of the 33-year-old FKCCI.

The chamber runs a business center, which functions as an incubator for French companies and businessmen new to Korea, the FKCCI said.

When French companies decide to set up a business here with help from the FKCCI, the chamber provides information about the local market as well as financial and administrative services.

Its services include offering members office space, marketing assistance and networking opportunities with the French-Korean community on top of up-to-date legal information.

The French business community got its first in-depth exposure of South Korea during the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games.

After going through a phase of M&A and joint ventures in the 1990s and 2000s -- such as Renault-Samsung, Shinhan BNP Paribas -- the 2011 Korea-EU FTA cleared the way for French SMEs to venture into Korea and vice versa.

The number of FKCCI members currently totals 350, compared to 200 in 2011, the chamber said.

“I (recently) visited Songdo with a delegation of 15 French companies in the construction sector to discover Korean expertise in smart city systems and prospective areas of cooperation,” Legrand said.

“In terms of promising sectors, I’m convinced that France and Korea can reach a new level of cooperation in strategic sectors such as aerospace, energy, agri-business, health, innovation, chemistry, cosmetics and luxury. These are the sectors where French companies have a strong presence here.” 

By Kim Bo-gyung (