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Ministers Fajon and Han accompanied by a business delegation visit South Korea to strengthen cooperation

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Tanja Fajon and Minister of the Economy, Tourism and Sport Matjaž Han are visiting Korea accompanied by a strong business delegation. They attended the official opening of the Slovenian Embassy in Seoul, held political talks and participated in a number of promotional activities where Slovenia is presenting its business investment environment, economy, tourism and opportunities for foreign investors.

Ministers Fajon and Han attended the opening of one of the most important import exhibitions, "Korea Import Fair", where Slovenian companies are represented in a joint Slovenian pavilion. After the investment and business conference, where Slovenia showcased its business and economic environment, they officially opened the premises of the Embassy of the Republic of Slovenia in Seoul and hosted diplomats, businessmen and other foreign guests on the occasion of Slovenia’s Statehood Day.

Minister Matjaž Han emphasised that the political and business visit was only one of the activities that the Ministry, together with SPIRIT Slovenia, was carrying out to support the internationalisation of the Slovenian economy. "Korea is one of the most competitive economies and the 10th largest economic power in the world. It is Slovenia's third most important Asian economic partner after China and Singapore. As a small export-oriented economy, we need to diversify our exports outside the EU, to markets where we can exploit our competitive advantages. To this end, we are also working at the national level to open the doors of Slovenian companies to foreign markets," said Mr Han, adding, "The opening of the Embassy in Seoul and my visit with Foreign Minister Fajon marks the beginning of closer economic and political cooperation and friendship between the two countries. The Embassy's doors will always be open to businesses from both Slovenia and Korea."

Minister Tanja Fajon stressed that despite their geographical distance, Slovenia and Korea have much in common. "Both countries share the same values of democracy, peace and security, respect for human rights and the rule of law. Korea is one of the world's leading countries in terms of economy and innovation, and Slovenia, located in the heart of Europe, is striving to join the leading countries in the European context. We are therefore doing our utmost to create an environment that provides ample business opportunities. Slovenia and Korea also share similar views on the most pressing global challenges. As newly elected non-permanent members of the UN Security Council, both countries will take decisions that will affect the whole world. I am therefore extremely pleased that our priorities are aligned, from climate change, human security and the Women, Peace and Security agenda to water issues. It is also in this light that the joint visit with Minister Han to Korea is a demonstration of our serious intention to strengthen political and economic cooperation with Korea. I believe that we have a good basis for this, and that Slovenia can be a trusted partner for Korea."

In the framework of the visit to Korea, the public agency SPIRIT Slovenia and the Korean partner, KOTRA Trade-Investment Promotion Agency, signed a Memorandum on Cooperation. A business conference is expected to follow in Ljubljana at the end of August, which will be visited by the incoming Korean business delegation.

"I consider the visit of the business delegation to the Republic of Korea a success. Our aim is to establish close relations between the two countries and to open new opportunities for strengthening economic cooperation between Slovenian and Korean companies. Korea is renowned for its advanced economy and innovative solutions, so the deepening of economic cooperation will enable us to exchange knowledge and technologies and create new business opportunities for our companies. I am pleased that we have renewed our Memorandum of Cooperation with our Korean counterpart, KOTRA, which I see as an important step in this direction. I am convinced that our joint efforts and activities will lead to many success stories between Slovenian and Korean companies, and I believe that together we can achieve excellent results and create a future based on sustainable growth and innovation," said Rok Capl, Acting Director of the public agency SPIRIT Slovenia, on the sidelines of the investment conference.

Before the opening ceremony of the trade fair on Wednesday, 29 June, Minister Fajon addressed the audience, and Minister Matjaž Han addressed the participants of the business and investment conference "Slovenia a Hidden Champion in the Heart of Europe", which showcased Slovenia's business and investment environment, economy, tourism and opportunities for foreign investors. It also provided Slovenian companies with information on how to enter the Korean market and their representatives held pre-planned B2B meetings with Korean businesspeople. Mr Han met Mr Kim Yoon-tae, Vice President of KOTRA, Mr Kim Jangho, Mayor of the industrialized city of Gumi, and visited the factory of the Slovenian company Kolektor Sinyung Co. Ltd.

Minister Fajon also met with former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, with whom she discussed, among other things, the possibilities for cooperation between the two countries within the UN and in other multilateral forums, especially in the light of the recent election of Slovenia and Korea as non-permanent members of the UN Security Council.

During her visit to Seoul, at the reception to mark Slovenia's Statehood Day, Minister Fajon inaugurated the Embassy of the Republic of Slovenia in the Republic of Korea, which has been operating for almost a year under the leadership of Ambassador Jernej Müller. The guests were also addressed by Minister Han, and both ministers stressed the importance of broadening Slovenia's diplomatic network. "Our presence in this country, which shares our values and is an important partner in Asia, means not only more economic and political opportunities, but also a wide-open door for cultural exchanges, strengthening tourism and people-to-people contacts," said the two ministers.

Opportunities to strengthen cooperation

Slovenia and Korea have established good cooperation in transport, logistics and medical device manufacturing. The Port of Koper is one of the most important ports in the Mediterranean and several important Korean companies are already cooperating with it in the logistics chain for the import of Korean goods to Europe. The Automotive Cluster of Slovenia (ACS) is interested in being involved in the supply chain and production of automotive components for Kia and Hyundai. To this end, the President and CEO of Kia, Mr Ho-Sung Song, has already met with ACS representatives in Slovenia in the spring, and thus the first steps for cooperation with Kia Europe have already been taken.

Other priority export sectors are health and medicine, electrical, mechanical and metal industries, information technologies and artificial intelligence, environmental technologies (smart water management solutions, wastewater treatment), wood industry, aerospace technologies, film industry and tourism.

Economic cooperation between Slovenia and Korea

There are many similarities between Slovenia and Korea. Both countries are highly export-oriented and provide an excellent entry point for doing business in the wider region. Korea is listed as a market of opportunity in the Programme of Investment Promotion and Internationalisation of the Slovenian Economy. For Korea, trade with the Port of Koper is of particular importance, as Koper’s position makes it an optimal base for the transport of goods to Central and South-Eastern European countries.

Last year, trade amounted to just over €527 million, of which Slovenia imported €380.1 million, and exported €147 million worth of goods and services. The most common imports are iron and steel, vehicles and parts, mineral fuels and oils, plastics, chemical products, caoutchouc and rubbers. The most exported products are electrical machinery and equipment, optical, measuring and medical instruments and devices, vehicles and parts, machines, and chemical, iron and steel products. In 2021, direct investment from the Republic of Korea in Slovenia amounted to €2.8 million and Slovenian investment in Korea to €9.7 million.

Korea is one of the most industrialised members of the G-20 and one of the most competitive economies in the world. It is the 10th largest economy globally and the 4th largest in Asia. Korea is the world's sixth largest exporter, thanks to its large business groups. It is a world leader in digital technology, ICT and digital infrastructure. In addition to 5G, the future focus will be on the development of artificial intelligence and big data.

Friday's programme of activities for the working visit

On Friday, 30 June 2023, Minister Tanja Fajon will meet with Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo and Foreign Minister Park Jin. Minister Matjaž Han will meet with Korean Minister of Commerce Dukgeun Ahn. The two ministers and the business delegation will also visit KIA's research and development centre and meet with KIA's President and CEO Ho-Sung Song.