Dutch Embassy Seoul

On our first day in South Korea, October 12th, we visited the Dutch embassy in Seoul. A presentation was given by Amin Zaghdoud and 3 other representatives of the Dutch embassy, each representing different sectors within the embassy: two economic advisers of which one is also focussing on climate change and sustainability, one of them focusses on the High tech sector and spreading knowledge between the Netherlands and Korea in specific to Korean institutes, and one of them was an assistant. The embassy in general is promoting friendly cooperation between the Republic of Korea and the Netherlands and responding in the international community. While the embassy is located in South Korea, it also represents the connections with North Korea. However, as there are no/not many Dutch people/organisations/companies in North Korea the focus of the embassy is on South Korea.

During the presentation, we learned a lot about the Republic of Korea. As also discovered in the macro studies the rapid (economic) growth of Korea was appointed. Export and the growth of the companies in Korea played an important role in this growth. Some differences between Dutch and Korean companies were explained. Dutch companies mainly only focus on vertical growth (getting better/more knowledge about one specific sector), while Korean companies focus on both vertical and horizontal growth, so they are expanding to different sectors, and are therefore circular as they are generating their own supply and demand. For small companies it can be hard to compete with these big companies, so therefore there are some restrictions given by the government on jobs that cannot be done by the cartels. The country’s high dependence on cartels like Samsung, Hyundai or LG, also brings a risk when one of these companies is degrading in value.

A hot topic in the last years is Covid. A lot of countries experienced high influences of the Covid situation, however Korea did not because of the type of exported goods, like chips, electronics, etc, and the high awareness. In the construction sector, the lack of imported raw materials and the absence of foreign workers played the biggest role in a decrease in work in this sector because of Covid. The notice of the dependence on the import of raw materials, led to measures taken in for example monitoring and establishing a warning system for these imported goods.

Another imported good, which also corresponds with the hot topic of sustainability and climate change mitigation, is energy. Currently, a lot of energy is imported to Korea. After the country noticed this big dependence and to reach its vision of becoming carbon neutral, there is more focused on generating zero-emission energy and saving energy in the country itself. For generating energy the country now focuses on nuclear energy and is planning to build a lot of nuclear power plants in the country. The saving can be seen in the zero-emission building strategy, which influences the construction sector. In this strategy, new buildings need a certificate in which is stated that the building should produce at least a certain amount of its own energy, should save this amount or a combination of both.

Other subjects discussed were extreme weather events (which recently stroke Korea with the heaviest rainfall in 115 years causing a lot of floods), architecture (mainly focussing on the safety issues occurring due to the pali-pali (“fast-fast”) culture in Korea in which construction need to happen as fast as possible), soft power (the influence Korea has outside Korea with for example K-pop or K-drama), and, to come a little bit back to our excursion in Dubai, the Expo 2030 which Korea wants to organise in Busan.

It was mentioned that the Netherlands and Korea can still learn a lot from each other in different sectors like agriculture, smart cities, zero energy buildings, research and development and innovation. So hopefully we can use this information gathered today as a basis and contribute to spreading the knowledge between Korea and the Netherlands now and when we come back home.