Korean cargo in the air

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To meet the export-driven South Korea's demand Finnair Cargo has expanded its air cargo capacity on its Korean route.

In many ways, South Korea is now the hottest country in Asia. The country’s entertainment industry and TV shows are highly popular in China and Japan, and the won’s low exchange rate has enticed people from neighbouring countries to holiday in South Korea.

South Korea’s economy passed through the worst of the economic downturn some time ago. In early 2010 analysts were surprised to see it as first OECD country to emerge from recession, without ever having its annual GDP slip into the red.

South Korea’s economic health is obvious on European retailers’ shelves. For instance, Samsung and LG have been increasing their shares of the mobile phone market since 2006.

“Korean products have a good price-value ratio and they sell well world-wide,” says Finnair Cargo’s Vice President Global Sales, Pertti Mero.

Finnair opened a direct flight link with Seoul in June 2008. On the freight side, the route has been a great success.

“There has been plenty of demand. At times there have even been signs of overheating, but fortunately we’ve been able to handle these peaks with transport via Japan. And luckily from summer 2010 we have had more flights on this route, including freighter service too”, Mero observes.

Electronics, spare parts and raw materials

South Korea’s economic growth is driven by its export industries, which have been systematically built up since the 1960s. Now about one third of the country’s exports are produced by its electronics industry, which must get its products onto the market quickly. There is also demand for air freight from the automotive industry, as South Korea is a major supplier of spare parts and components for car plants in Europe.

There are also full loads of cargo heading the other direction as Korea imports most of the raw materials used by its basic industries. Consumer products are also sent by air to the Korean market, for instance Norwegian salmon.

The direct air connection has brought Finland and South Korea closer together. Neighbouring areas have also benefited from the link. From Seoul, there are onward connections to cities such as Pusan and Ulsan.

“Our main home market is all of northern Europe, but we also have continuous traffic from Korea to southern Europe and places like Ukraine,” Mero notes.

In 2009 South Korea and EU signed a free-trade agreement, and therefore, more European companies might introduce their products to Korea's markets in the future.

Cargo schedules are available at www.finnaircargo.com/en/cargo/schedule/  

We have a lot in common… 

Although South Korea is a relatively new trading partner for Finland, the countries are surprisingly similar in many ways. Along with high levels of technology and education, they are both major players in the shipbuilding and mobile phone industries and are brotherly rivals with their neighbouring countries.

“The South Koreans believe strongly in the future”, says Ari Virtanen, Head of the Korean Trade Centre run by Finpro (formerly the Finnish Foreign Trade Association).

“The Koreans are real business people. They went through the same kind of reconstruction as Finland did after the wars. It just happened later here, in the 1970s, 80s and 90s,” Virtanen points out.

South Korea’s impressive economic growth is primarily the result of determined hard work. One crucial factor in its national competitiveness is that its employees work longer days than in any other OECD country. The nation only shortened the standard working week to five days in 2004, and not so long ago, it was still common to work seven days a week.

“The Koreans and the Finns have also very similar decision-making processes,” he says. “Decisions are made quickly, and if they turn out to be wrong, they are corrected.”

In Virtanen’s experience, the Koreans are also direct and more likely to show their emotions than other Asians. And, oddly enough, the Finnish and Korean languages may even be distant relatives. Some linguists have claimed that they both belong to a ‘Ural-Altaic’ language group.

Tourist information regarding Seoul is available on Finnair web site (-> Destinations) 

Text by Outi Airaksinen
Photo by Finnair

Published August 24, 2011

Category: Local features, Market updates

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