Spanish Chamber of Commerce in Korea provides support to companies that would like to start their business relations between Spain and Korea
Spanish Chamber of Commerce in Korea provides support to companies that would like to start their business relations between Spain and Korea
  • Stephen Kim
  • 승인 2020.02.28 12:18
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Enrique Vilaplana, President of the Spanish Chamber of Commerce interviewed by The Korea Post media
ESCCK's website. ESCCK was founded to strengthen the business environment between Spain and South Korea, improving the commercial and cultural relationship.
ESCCK's website. ESCCK was founded to strengthen the business environment between Spain and South Korea, improving the commercial and cultural relationship.


Korea and Spain mark the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations in 2020. Spanish ambassador Juan Ignacio Morro Villacian Spain once mentioned in an interview with The Korea Post media that although Korea and Spain were always on good terms historically, the relationship between the two countries is not intense yet. The Spanish Chamber of Commerce in Korea (ESCCK) was founded in 2015 to strengthen the business environment between Korea and Spain. The Korea Post interviewed its President Enrique Vilaplana who is also working as a senior foreign attorney at Yoon & Yang LLC to hear more about what ESCCK does to strengthen the relationship.


Enrique Vilaplana, The President of the Spanish Chamber of Commerce. Vilaplana is also working as a senior foreign attorney at Yoon & Yang.
Enrique Vilaplana, The President of the Spanish Chamber of Commerce. Vilaplana is also working as a senior foreign attorney at Yoon & Yang.


Question: Please briefly introduce the Spanish Chamber of Commerce in Korea.
Answer: ESCCK is a non-profit organization created to support corporations that want to start or strengthen the business environment between Spain and South Korea, improving the commercial and cultural relationship.
Its objectives are: 1) Promote relations between South Korea and Spain 2) Offer ESCCK members a platform to exchange information and experiences and to communicate and interact with public and private entities and people in South Korea through networkings, seminars, conferences, exhibitions, etc. 3) Develop business opportunities for our members, especially among the industrial and service sectors 4) Promote events to reinforce and improve the image of Spain in South Korea.
In general, any other activity related to the promotion of commercial and / or cultural ties between South Korea and Spain
Q: Please introduce some of the leading Spanish companies in Korea.
A: In terms of size or investment, I would like to point out the following ones:
INDITEX: is a Spanish multinational textile manufacturing and distribution group. It has its headquarters in A Coruña. Inditex has more than 152,000 employees and operates more than 7,000 stores on five continents under the main brands of Zara, Zara Home, Massimo Dutti, Pull & Bear, Bershka, Oysho, Uterqüe, Lefties and Stradivarius
Zara opened its first stores in South Korea in 2008 and currently has 39 stores in cities such as Seoul, Busan Daegu or Kwangju. In this market, the Inditex Group is present with 58 stores of five of its brands: Zara, Massimo Dutti, Bershka, Pull & Bear and Stradivarius.
BEFESA: Befesa is a services company specializing in the recycling of steel dust, salt slags and aluminum residues, as well as related logistics and other related industrial services. BEFESA was created in 1993 and is currently one of the leading companies in industrial waste recycling solutions. The company has a strong international presence in more than 15 countries, including South Korea, one of its strategic markets for recycling services due to its powerful steel industry and its environmental policy.
Since 2012, Befesa has made strategic investments in South Korea to expand its recycling services in the Asian market. Befesa has a steel mill dust recycling capacity of 220,000 tons in South Korea (Pohang).
AMADEUS IT GROUP: is a company that providestechnological solutions for the travel industry, employing more than 19,000 people. Its global travel distribution system is the most advanced in the world. It facilitates the technical connection between travel agencies and service providers: airlines, car rental companies, hotels and other businesses related to the tourism industry.
In addition to the above, we can also highlight manufacturing companies for the automotive sector (ALONSO GROUP, GESTAMP, MATRICI), companies in the renewable sector (SIEMENS GAMESA, UNIVERGY, FRV, SOLARIG), industrial (FAGOR, PREMO) or engineering (SENER , INDRA) among others.
Business Forum Spain-Korea during King’s of Spain visit.
Business Forum Spain-Korea during King’s of Spain visit.


Q: Which Korean companies are in Spain?
A: Korean companies are progressing from a predominantly commercial position in Spain - particularly in wholesale distribution of hi-tech products manufactured in Korea - towards a growing involvement in the service sector, industrial production and transformation, and even research and development.
In addition to automotive companies (KIA and HYUNDAY) and logically electronic ones (LG, SAMSUNG), the main Korean operations have taken place in the Port of Algeciras (HYUNDAI SHIPPING and HYUNDAI MERCHANT MARINE), in the Cartagena lubricant factory (SK LUBRICANTS in joint venture with Repsol) and in the acrylic acid ethylene factory in Tarragona (SK GLOBAL CHEMICAL CO. LTD., which has acquired it from DOW CHEMICAL COMPANY). In addition, with the establishment of direct flights to Madrid and Barcelona, KOREAN AIR and ASIANA are also present.
South Korea is beginning to take advantage of the benefits and business opportunities that Spain has to offer as an investment destination. The increase in Korean foreign investment is just one consequence of the growing international presence of its companies, being also important the fact that Spain offers one of the most attractive Investment Incentives systems in the EU. Korean companies can have access to regional incentives grants in 80% of the Spanish territory, soft loans for industrial investments, subsidies and tax incentives for R&D activities, Social Security rebates for job creation and training as well as the benefits that the Treaty on Avoidance of Double Taxation with Korea establishes.
ESCCK Spanish Networking Night
ESCCK Spanish Networking Night


Q: What is your impression of the Spanish economy and culture? What cultural differences are there in Korea?
A: a.Until 2008, Spain lived one of the most prosperous periods in its history, but suffered the consequences of a global economic crisis that increased its effects on the Spanish economy due to the bursting of the real estate bubble and excessive indebtedness of the private sector.
This recession wreaked havoc in the pockets of the average citizen and brought with it alarming unemployment data that have been corrected thanks to the measures taken by governments that have been since then, many of them from institutions such as the European Central Bank or the European Commission.
Between 2015 and 2017, some signs of recovery were seen, especially in terms of job creation, a fundamental factor in the economy of any country.
The labor market and current monetary policies are very different from those that existed before the crisis, changes that have prevented a long period of stability from being established due, among other aspects, to the two general elections that took place during these years.
The fact that in 2018 the creation of employment in this sector has declined has slowed the growth that the Spanish economy is experiencing, although tourism remains fundamental and has played an important role in maintaining the improvement of the economic situation from Spain.
Data on Spanish exports for the past five years have undergone very positive changes. In 2013, one of the toughest years of the crisis, the export balance indicated that there was a deficit in this area that became a surplus in 2015.
Since that year, exports have been growing providing benefits that yielded virtually historical data until last year there was a decline that led to a return to the figures of 2015. We must bear in mind that the results are still very positive, but the growth brake is noted.
The value of investments for the economic situation in Spain is another factor that has motivated the growth of the Spanish economy. During the last 4 years, investments have increased but in 2018, there has been a brake that has been reflected by the IBEX, one of the most valued indices in the stock market.
Now the economic data of 2019 are similar to those of 2018, in the coming months it will be known if the economic situation of Spain improves or remains in the current state.
Experts again point to the role of the United States that has driven a rate hike that has led to increased financing costs and has resulted in the creation of a tariff war that hinders trade between different countries.
This context causes any investor to think coldly about what to do with their money and discard some ideas that they would have executed in previous years. Currently there is uncertainty in the market worldwide, European and national.
b. One of the best-known examples of cultural differences that may arise between Spain and South Korea is respect for the elderly, or the use of formal language to target virtually everyone. In Spain we tend to guard all our friends, regardless of their age, and even guard our parents, teachers and grandparents. This is something unthinkable in South Korea and can cause some misunderstanding.
On the other hand, it is difficult for some Spaniards to get used to in South Korea how quiet and quiet they are in public. While in the subway, in a cafeteria or in a park, it will be considered rude if another person is speaking loudly enough for you to hear about his or her conversation. However, in Spain I find out daily about the life of virtually anyone around me.
Asian cultures follow a collectivist culture, unlike in Europe, where the individualistic culture that gives importance to the individual over the group prevails. In Spain we have all gone to a friend's house and we have passed that shame of being hungry and saying nothing. In addition, even if they asked us if we wanted something, we have refused. Here that behavior is not the norm; Koreans assume that everything that is taken to a place is to share among everyone. And that, as it is for everyone, they should not ask permission to take it and eat it or drink it. We Spaniards assume that nothing can be touched or nothing can be eaten. We will starve to death before taking something from a not owned refrigerator without permission, even if they insist that this meal is for everyone. The implied permission every time the refrigerator is opened is a necessary step so that we can eat at ease. This behavior can, in fact, cause problems for making Koreans feel that they are not being sufficiently hospitable or that we do not like what they offer us.
But deep inside, and from my personal experience, I believe that Spaniards and Koreans have many more points in common (both historically and in terms of values and human beings) than in discord. If I have the opportunity to invite a Korean friend to my house, I do not hesitate to do so. They adapt easily to the Spanish routine and make me feel the best host in the world with their enthusiasm for everything.
World Tapas Day in Jeonju hosted by ESCCK and Jeonju City last year. Vilaplana believes that Spaniards and Koreans have many more points in common.
ESCCK participated in World Tapas Day in Jeonju City last year. Vilaplana believes that Spaniards and Koreans have a lot in common. 


Q: The relationship between Spain and Korea are not so closely bonded just yet. How are you going to contribute to engaging more companies in the future?
A: In the seventy years, after Spain and Korea established diplomatic relations, contacts and exchanges between the two countries have been experiencing a constant and progressive expansion and diversification, moderately the first 30 years and with greater acceleration in the last four decades. The two sectors in which bilateral relations are increasing the most, especially in the last 10 years, are commerce, in both directions, and tourism, the latter much more sharply the Korean directed to Spain. Other areas highlighted by its dynamism are the studies of the Spanish language in Korea and scientific and technological cooperation.
From ESCCK we will emphasize and work on those fields, but we will also promote culture (understanding this as art, gastronomy, language, etc.) as an indissoluble element of our way of being.
On the other hand, the trip of His Majesties the Kings of Spain to the Republic of Korea in November 2019 constitutes the beginning and, at the same time, the climax of the commemoration of these first seventy years of Hispanic-Korean diplomatic relations and opens the way to a new stage called to be characterized by a greater deepening in exchanges and in an increasingly better mutual knowledge between the two countries. Our work begins now for real.
Q: I would like to hear about your biography and your point of view in regards to international cooperation.
A: I have a degree in Law and I graduated in Corporate Law. I arrived in Korea in November 2014 and I am currently working for Yoon & Yang. Having worked in an international environment has given me, along with my love for traveling, a unique point of view as to what international cooperation implies or how it is acting to get adequate funding for these goals.
As many know, international cooperation refers to the voluntary help of a donor or one country to another, that is, that the population of one territory is aware of the needs of another country and tries to contribute its grain of sand. These contributions do not necessarily have to come from a government, but can be established between organizations and other countries.
One of the main reasons why international cooperation is necessary for world balance is the different areas on which one works. That is why I want to tell you about the lines of action that are followed in international aid and the importance of continuing to develop them:
Health: For almost two decades, international cooperation has been taking this field into account, and in this way a new network of international institutions and actors has been configured that have changed the way in which health policies are applied globally We know these advances with the term global health. Thus, the Global Health Agenda focuses mainly on the control of infectious diseases and health programs aimed mainly at priority groups and environmental aspects that are directly related to the health of the population of the most disadvantaged countries. In this way, most of the efforts are invested in the promotion of research and education, areas in which greater funding is demanded to achieve the objectives.
Education: This is a fundamental factor in social transformation, because it helps create new generations involved and aware of the needs of the planet. Therefore, several civil society actors focus their efforts on obtaining financing to develop educational projects in countries that have more difficulties in offering access to quality education.
Reduction of inequalities: Many international organizations are committed to development with equity, which is also one of the objectives of sustainable development of the 2030 Agenda, whose objective is to eradicate poverty in all its forms and combat inequalities within countries and in its relations with third parties.
In Spain, the main governmental body oriented to international cooperation is the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID). Its statutes state that its objectives are the fight against poverty and the promotion of sustainable human development.
After the approval of the IV Master Plan of the Spanish Cooperation, created by the line marked by the Millennium Development Goals, the focus of attention of the Spanish action is focused on three points: the gender perspective, environmental quality and respect to cultural diversity.
Official Development Assistance (Ayuda Oficial al Desarrollo or AOD in Spanish) has been one of the areas that has suffered the most cuts with the crisis. Its fall has been 70% since 2009 and another at least 50% during the last term. Above all, this cut has been noted in humanitarian aid, which has fallen 82% since 2009.
These data, in fact, are contradictory, because in recent years humanitarian crises and conflicts and, therefore, the needs of many countries have proliferated. I regret that there is no strong strategy on the contribution that corresponds to our country in the world, and how this aid has weakened in recent years.
We are the country that, in a context of refugee crisis, has cut more in international cooperation, and it does not seem like something to be proud of, besides it calls into question our role within the international community.
That is why I would like that in the current legislature we return to take our place in the donor community, reaching 0.4% of GDP and returning to the average expenditure of the European Union.
President Enrique Vilaplana (eighth from left) poses with members of Spanish Chamber of Commerce in Korea.
President Enrique Vilaplana (eighth from left) poses with members of Spanish Chamber of Commerce in Korea.

Q: Please let me know if there is anything else, you can introduce about the Spanish Chamber of Commerce in Korea.

A: From ESCCK we are aware that the relationship between Spain and Korea is weak in economic terms, although in recent years it has grown considerably as I have commented. The Spanish economic progress in Korea must grow more, and for that, we have to show this country, not only the companies we have, but also the culture in which they have developed in order to have a better angle in explaining their virtues. From ESCCK we believe that, in these first years of its life, it is necessary to start from the basics, and that is the culture. Therefore, focusing on gastronomy and tourism, we have created two committees that, in the coming months, will develop programs and events related to the above. Spain is famous for its food, and that is what we are going to do, to show Korea how good it is to eat in Spain and the good health of the Mediterranean diet. However, for this to be possible before we must be able to have our products in this country. That is going to be our first task: to detect the possible barriers of entry to these products and work hard so that in the future Spanish products can enter, under control, this market.
King Felipe and Queen Letizia visited South Korea last Octber to strengthen the bilateral relationships between both countries.
King Felipe and Queen Letizia visited South Korea last Octber to strengthen the bilateral relationships between both countries.


In addition, related to the above we have tourism; Spain is a melting pot of regions with diverse geographical and cultural characteristics. Each region has wonders that we want Koreans to know, because this is the only way for them to appreciate the differences in one area and another.
South Korea has become the third largest issuing market in Asia for Spain. Until August 435,000 South Korean tourists have arrived, representing an increase of 39.2% over the same period last year. We believe that there is still a long way to raise this figure so we are going to work so that other areas of Spain less known are part of the itinerary of the Korean traveler, a traveler who, far from liking the well-known sun and beach, discover tourism focused on gastronomic, cinematographic, medical and business. Let us also hope that the recently signed MoU that develops the biennial program of Hispanic-Korean tourism 2020-2021 will help us in this task.


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