Supporting Korean Startups: Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) paves the way for global outreach

Foreign trade and investment are essential elements for startups who want to explore international shores or get funding from global investors. In South Korea, the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency or KOTRA is the agency that supports and enables businesses to explore overseas markets. KOTRA’s main aim is to become a “world-class trade-investment promotion agency” for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) through support for global outreach and job creations.

What is KOTRA?

Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency, or KOTRA, is one of the oldest government agencies in South Korea created to support the businesses. It was set up in 1962 to promote foreign trade and investment. Since then, KOTRA has played a significant role in the country’s foreign trading system.

KOTRA has 125 offices in 85 countries. The agency functions as a global business platform for Korean companies and their global partners. KOTRA’s primary focus is to help small- and medium-sized enterprises expand their outreach in overseas markets, improve national brand, supporting international development, attracting foreign investment, and conducting SME global business training.

How do KOTRA’s activities help startups?

KOTRA’s primary focus is trade development and supporting startups and small businesses for overseas outreach. The agency fosters emerging startups by connecting them with foreign partners. KOTRA organizes summits that help startups network with prominent Venture Capitalists. It also has Korean startups showcase events and IR pitching sessions to attract investment. KOTRA encourages Korean startups to join the Korean Pavilion in global startup conferences. The agency also connects promising Korean startups with global accelerators and mentoring programs.

KOTRA’s main services that include trade and promotion of businesses also help the startups aspiring for expansion in the global market. The main services that KOTRA is involved in are.

1) Trade Support:
Support the B2B e-market through buyKOREA. It is a global B2B powerhouse that connects international buyers and Korean suppliers. buyKOREA offers over 200,000 Korean products for purchases online with a credit card(KOPS) or Paypal. buyKOREA team also supports online B2B meetings.

Organize Exhibitions: Association of Korean Exhibition Industries It is an organization specializing solely on exhibitions founded in September 2002 under the auspices of the Ministry of Commerce, Industry, and Energy. KOTRA organizes exhibitions like COEX, SETEC, KINTEX, CECO, BEXCO, etc. to promote businesses and services.

Providing trade & market information: KOTRA helps startups and businesses by matching the products & services with international buyers. KOTRA cooperates with local governments and authorities to form and dispatch trade missions consisting of SMEs wishing to engage in overseas business activities. Export consulting is provided for foreign buyers by KOTRA’s Korea Business Center to increase international trade. KOTRA provides guidance and recommendations to exhibitors and supports the cost of international trade shows so that SMEs can utilize trade shows as their most effective tactic for generating leads and building brand image. KOTRA promotes Korean culture and media (music, film, TV, games, etc.) companies as they interact with foreign buyers.

2) Promoting Investment in Korea:
KOTRA’s initiative Invest KOREA (IK) provides customized services to support the entry and establishment of foreign businesses in Korea. KOTRA works through its network of 36 overseas branches, known as Korea Business Centers, to provide comprehensive services for foreign companies.

This includes consultations, assistance with investment notification and corporate establishment, support for business activities in Korea, and grievance resolution. Invest KOREA provides all foreign investment services includes promoting the national image, finding potential investors, reviewing, planning, and executing investment, consulting, and after management. KOTRA also has developed the Invest Korea Plaza (IKP), the first international business incubation center in Korea that offers business consultation, administration support, investment, and efficient one-stop services to foreign investors.

3) Job Creation & other activities

KOTRA helps Korean companies to search for global talent through its sub-division Contact KOREA established in 2008. Contact KOREA seeks talented personnel through its 129 KOTRA KBCs (Korea Business Centers) in 84 countries around the world. Contact KOREA’s system gives comprehensive support to Korean companies in need of global personnel, giving visa recommendations, providing immigration support, and helping with relocation to Korea. In the last two years, KOTRA has assisted with the employment of 708 global professionals in over 308 companies.

KOTRA also helps the promotion of arts through ‘Art Collaborations’ and exhibits. KOTRA’s office lobby is an ‘Open Gallery’ since June 2012 with exhibits about international trade and history and products of small and medium-sized enterprises(SMEs).

KOTRA supports defense trade activities through its department Korea Defense Industry Trade Support Center(KODITS), established by the Korean government in 2009.  This pan-governmental organization provides a variety of support related to defense and security trade, including business matchmaking, government-to-government(GtoG) contract support, offset trade, package deals, and Homeland Security (HLS) industry support.

KOTRA has the vision to become a global business platform that would strengthen the Korean economy, and the agency is committed to helping its customers increase global competitiveness by supporting new companies, create new opportunities in global markets, and providing market information and infrastructural support.

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