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KITA: A staunch advocate for free trade

As Korea’s largest business organization, the Korean International Trade Association (KITA) plays a vital role in keeping South Korea’s economy strong and stable. Established in 1946, the Seoul-based association represents the interests of Korean companies with the support of 13 domestic offices and 15 overseas branches.

Apart from market entry support, KITA also carries out strategic and policy consulting, buyer-seller matching, market research, world-class exhibitions, trade diplomacy, and training for trade professionals.

KITA has more than 70,000 members, which include large conglomerates as well as SMEs, which make up its core membership and receive focused support to realize their full potential.

“Out of the entire number of businesses that exist in Korea, around 99 percent are SMEs. These firms can really make a difference. They employ more individuals, and there are a lot of government policies that support them,” KITA Chairman and CEO Kim Young-ju said.

Meeting with Korean International Trade Association Chairman and CEO Kim Young Ju

A strong advocate of free trade since the 1980s, KITA continues to promote globalization amid the rise in protectionist rhetoric.

“Globalization started spreading increasingly fast since the 1990s and since then, it’s become pretty much impossible to find a project where everything is manufactured in one country. If we look for the best parts, the best intermediate product, the best design, these all come from different countries,” Kim explained. 

While both Korean and foreign businesses gain mutually from free trade and overseas expansion, consumers also benefit because of an improvement in the quality of products, according to Kim, who calls for a concerted effort to highlight the positive effects of free trade.

“This is a time where we need to think about how we can help each other. From the private sector level, I think we need to communicate with each other more. Governments also need to work on convincing each other. We need to discuss the challenges of trade protectionism and reach a consensus so that we can hopefully turn public opinion into a more positive direction,” he said.

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