The Korea-Vietnam honeymoon in the economic field is deepening. Currently, Korea is Vietnam’s No. 1 investor and the most preferred investor for Vietnamese agencies. The bilateral trade between Korea and Vietnam, which amounted to about US$10 billion 10 years ago, is running towards the goal of US$100 billion by 2022. Economists say that up until now Korea’s large corporations such as Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics and their partner companies have created a business ecosystem in Vietnam. They note that it is time for Korea’s small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to take the lead in further developing economic exchanges between the two countries.
Kim Ki-mun, chairman of the Korea Federation of SMEs (KBIZ), met Korean reporters in Hanoi, Vietnam on Dec. 8 and talked about his recent meeting with Vu Tien Loc, chairman and president of the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI). Kim quoted the Vietnamese business leader as saying that the Vietnamese government will give top priority to investment from Korea. Vietnamese President Nguyen Phu Trong signed Resolution No. 50 in August to announce that the Vietnamese government will attract foreign capital selectively, taking quality, efficiency, technology and environmental protection as the main evaluation criteria. Vietnam has begun to watch out for foreign capital, especially that from China. Nevertheless, the Vietnamese government has expressed its plan to attract investment from Korea first and then open the sectors shunned by Korean investors to other countries.
The Vietnamese government’s new stance on foreign capital was confirmed at the Baekdu Forum held at Lotte Hotel in Hanoi on Dec. 6. Vietnam’s Deputy Director of Planning and Investment, Le Thi Hai Van, declared, “Vietnam welcomes Korean companies any time. If Korean firms have trouble entering the Vietnamese market, please feel free to tell me.”
The forum focused on discussing how to further develop cooperation between Korea and Vietnam in the future. In particular, several participants pointed out the need to shift the one-sided Korea-Vietnam trade where the former enjoys an annual surplus of US$30 billion towards a more reciprocal structure.
Kim Ki-mun said, “Now it is time for the two countries to further develop economic cooperation by fostering innovation-driven labor division and collaboration.” He went on to say, “It is important to tap into the young talent of Vietnam, particularly in the fields of R&D and IT.”
The Vietnamese government currently puts the highest emphasis on creation and innovation. Le Thi Hai Van said, “We should promote foreign investment companies to train Vietnamese workers. Last October, the Vietnamese government decided to build a center for creative innovation. Our goal is to attract foreign R&D centers to foster researchers.”
Various opinions were also presented on upgrading the industrial cooperation system between Korea and Vietnam. Kim Yong-jin, a professor at Sogang University, said, “We need to create a variety of value chains to meet the recent trend of digital transformation.” Chae Soo-hong, a professor of Seoul National University, said, “Korea needs to play a role in developing Vietnam’s labor-intensive industry into a technology-information-intensive industry.”
A total of 60 Korean industrialists participated in the Baekdu Forum, including representatives of cooperatives of each industry in Korea. On the Vietnamese side, a total of 140 people attended the forum, including Cham Van Tuy, president of the Vietnam-Korea Parliamentary Friendship Association, Hwang Kwang Pung, vice president of the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and 80 Vietnamese businesspeople.