The Rise of Trade Fairs in the Asia-Pacific Region
Edited by Harald Bathelt and Gang Zeng
Chapter 14: How and where tigers roam: the role of Korean trade fairs in supporting firms’ export activities
Over the past three decades, South Korean manufacturers have emerged as acknowledged leaders in several competitive sectors in the global economy. This has been an ongoing process, as in its early stages South Korea practiced a form of import-substituting industrialization with the long-run goal of pursuing sustainable export-oriented industrialization. And while Korea has recently been spearheading successive free trade agreements with countries around the world in the hopes of supporting broad industry bases, export-oriented industrialization beginning in the post-war Park Chung-hee administration was a top-down and interventionist planning exercise, largely favoring targeted sectors, the growing chaebols (South Korean-type traditional business conglomerates), their trading arms and government-owned private enterprises (Song 1997). The success of export-oriented industrialization has been manifested across many globally competitive industries, including information technology, consumer electronics, motor vehicles and shipbuilding, but, by and large, this success has come via a steady and planned transition over the years first from manufacturing and exporting mature products like footwear, then to higher value-added goods such as industrial chemicals and, eventually, semiconductors (Kim 1997). Looking to the future, if the Korean economy aims to remain export-intensive to fuel further growth, thus providing not only employment opportunities for an increasingly well-educated workforce, but also much-needed validation for incumbent political regimes, firms will need to find ways in which to nurture international business relationships and, perhaps of equal importance, to reveal themselves to wider global markets.
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