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Focus and tenacity key to business success in Korea

New Zealand businesses need to lift their game if they want to succeed in Korea according to New Zealand Trade and Enterprise research into the perceptions of New Zealand in South Korea.

“There is a pool of goodwill and trust for New Zealand in Korea,” says NZTE’s Trade Commissioner based in Seoul, Graeme Solloway. “But the latest research indicates that while New Zealand is seen as being warm and trustworthy, there is also a perception that New Zealand has stagnated in the last 10 years, and that we don’t actively seek or chase business opportunities here.”

“Like many places, Korea is a complex market, with its own unique business culture, and New Zealand businesses need to take the time to understand and appreciate the way that relationships and the local business culture work here, and operate a way that resonates with Korean customers,” Mr Solloway says.

The 2010 research builds on an initial survey completed in 2008 which found that New Zealanders were perceived as being friendly but not business minded.

“Overall there has been little change in the Korean perceptions of New Zealand over the past two years,” Mr Solloway says. “There is a growing perception that New Zealand businesses are ill prepared for Korea and are not stepping up to Korean business standards. If businesses can do that, there are huge opportunities here for the waiting.”

The research indicates that:

  • There is a pool of goodwill and trust for New Zealand in Korea and Koreans enjoy working and playing with New Zealanders.
  • New Zealand businesses are seen as slow and unresponsive and Korean businesses are losing patience and have easier business options to choose from.
  • Koreans generally have positive perceptions of New Zealand food and beverage however specific product knowledge tends to be restricted to unprocessed foods such as fruit and vegetables.
  • Customised products and packing is required in Korea, in particular in the food and beverage industry.
  • New Zealand needs to articulate a more contemporary business story in Korea, focusing on portraying high quality, premium, and sophisticated products.
  • New Zealand businesses need to embrace digital marketing tools as Korean consumers and customers expect dynamic, sophisticated websites as a basic requirement for business.
  • There are a number of cultural elements to doing business in Korea that New Zealanders need to understand better including contract negotiation, the web of relationships that exist in Korea, and that a long-term level of commitment is required.
  • New Zealand is perceived as being warm and trustworthy, however there is a perception that New Zealand has stagnated in the last 10 years.
  • New Zealand’s ‘lifestyle priorities’ are seen as the reason why New Zealand does not chase business more actively in Korea.

Mr Solloway says that like many Asian markets, Korea has a culture of speed and Korean customers and clients expect quick responses and turnaround times.

“New Zealand businesses need to be much more responsive, not just in Korea, but elsewhere as well. A slow response is often interpreted as disinterest. Koreans are often critical of New Zealand companies’ lack of investment and preparedness to work in partnership to develop the market.

“Success here comes when a business demonstrates that it really does understand its customer, whether it be through adapting products for Korean tastes, tailoring information specifically to the Korean customer, building a more sophisticated online presence, or investing in and supporting channel development.

“New Zealand firms ought to consider a paradigm shift from exporting to building in-market sales and distribution companies that capture a greater share of the value chain.”

The 2010 research involved 25 indepth face-to-face interviews with business people, key decision makers and buyers and managers in the food and beverage and ICT industries in Korea.

The full report is available on NZTE’s website.


For more information contact:

Graeme Solloway, NZTE Trade Commissioner for South Korea, Graeme.Solloway@nzte.govt.nz

Henry Matthews, NZTE Brand Manager, ph 09 354 9071, Henry.Matthews@nzte.govt.nz

Distributed by Dana Findlay, NZTE Communications Consultant, ph 09 354 9058 or 027 211 2025, dana.findlay@nzte.govt.nz