SEOUL -- While China is getting the lion's share of attention these days, another Asian nation is also boosting its business with Latin America: South Korea.
Throughout Latin America, Korean companies like Samsung, Hyundai, LG and SK are expanding. At the same time, Koreans are increasingly playing the role of middleman in importing Chinese cars to Latin America.
"A lot of Koreans are importing Chinese cars to Latin America," says Jae-Sung Kwak, Associate Dean of the Graduate School of Pan-Pacific International Studies at Kyung Hee University.
Business is expected to grow further as a result of a new free trade agreement with Peru (which took effect in August) and FTAs with Mexico and Colombia are currently being negotiated. These come on the heels of a 2004 trade deal with Chile.
The Korea-Chile FTA led to a quadrupling of trade to $7.2 billion in 2010. "Now, Chilean wine and grapes [have] become regular features at the Korean dinner table. And made-in-Korea cars are easily seen on the streets of Chile," Korea' s Vice Minister of Strategy and Finance Je-Yoon Shin told the Korea-LAC Business Forum held in Seoul in October. The event, the second one of its kind since 2007, was organized by the IDB and the Ministry of Strategy and Finance of Korea, in close collaboration with the Korea Export and Import Bank (KEXIM), the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) and the Federation of Korean Industries (FKI).
Chilean wine now has a 25 percent market share in Korea compared with 6 percent in 2003 before the FTA, according to Cristian Lopez, Corporate Export Director for Asia, for Chilean wine producer Concha y Toro, who adds that Koreans are now drinking more wine than before.
"The Korea-Chile FTA changed drinking cultures," adds ByungSoo Alan, president of the Import Research Institute of the Korea Importers Association.
And wine and grapes aren't the only beneficiary of the FTA with Chile. "No one would have predicted the success of Chilean pork in Korean markets," says Kwak.
Korea's trade with Latin America grew by 29 percent in 2010 to a record $43.8 billion. Korean exports to Latin America jumped 30 percent to $29.7 billion, while imports from Latin America increased 27 percent to $14.1 billion, according to the Korea International Trade Association.
Korea's top exports include automobiles, electronics, home appliances and petroleum products. About half of its exports went to Mexico and Brazil, where it operates factories making...