Trade Mission to South Korea

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Touching down in Seoul on a cold December evening kicked off my recent trade mission with our state’s 9th largest export partner. Annually, $1.2 billion of American-made goods travel the same route I did, mostly in medical tech, and Korea is our 13th largest import partner in the form of motor vehicles, machinery, optic photo equipment, pharmaceuticals and plastics.

 With 10 million people living in the city proper (20 million if you include immediate suburbs) the Seoul skyline is denser and significantly taller than Boston’s. It also has the feel of a city that was built just yesterday. Save for some palaces, in relative terms, it was. Their stunning modernity is rooted in post-war devastation and rebirth. The whole city is a marvel of city planning and public transportation.

 In addition to our robust trade relationship, our nations have an unbreakable bond. South Koreans are gracious and warm, but also carry with them the raw pain of decades of occupation, war, and devastation, in the last divided nation in the world. They are also solidly mindful of the role America has played in their freedom. For our sacrifices they consider themselves “blood siblings”. That bond was evident with every interaction.

 As the House Chair of the Joint Committee on Export Development, I’ve been able to consider trade-related legislation and held hearings overseeing organizations like MassPort and our bustling Conley Marine Terminal. In conversations with diplomats and foreign Chambers of Commerce in Boston, I advocate for Massachusetts as an exporter of goods, from cutting-edge medical technologies to the world’s best cranberries and seafood. Therefore, as a guest of the Korean Government, my visit was packed tightly with visits to companies who are already established trade partners and others that would like to be. Those companies recognize that Massachusetts leads in innovation and in educating some of the best talent in the world.

 I am pleased to share that many of the businesses I met with while on my trade mission in Seoul are interested in investing in the economy here in the Commonwealth. Executives from Korean Air were eager to discuss marketing for their new nonstop route between Boston and Seoul set to begin in April.

 I enjoyed meeting with global giants like Samsung and KT (Korean Telecom), as well as smaller companies like Yuhan Pharmaceuticals and Sambo Nonwovens, all looking to make Massachusetts part of their growth strategy. I’m pleased to share that one of the companies I met with, Samyang Biopharm, just signed a lease for office space at One Kendall Square in Cambridge and will begin their local presence hiring 20 employees.

 I was also able to tour the unicameral Korean National Assembly, the Korean War Museum, and descend deep into the earth to reach “tunnel #3” which was dug as a sneak attack by North Koreans, in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea. Foreign policy is always present in talks of international trade so I especially enjoyed a formal foreign policy discussion with Secretary General Taiyoung Cho while visiting the Northeast Asian History Foundation. 

 Visiting our trade partner and important ally this way really opened my eyes in so many areas like city planning, transportation, cultural identity, and foreign policy, while solidifying our vital trade relationship. These relationships form the backbone of trade and lead to direct investment in Massachusetts, a major driver of growth in our state’s economy. Add to that our gorgeous new world-class airport with several new international nonstop routes, convey that Massachusetts is a major player on the world stage and very much open for business.

Preyel Patel