By Publisher Lee Kyung-sik with Editor Uhm Jeen-ho, Reporter Jessica Y. Park
Ambassador Eero Suominen of the Republic of Finland in Seoul said, “The trade between Korea and Finland has increased a lot between 2016 and 2018 and especially important is the export of services from Finland to Korea."
Speaking at a recent interview with The Korea Post media (publisher of 3 English and 2 Korean news media outlets since 1985) on the occasion of the National Day of Finland on Dec. 6, 2018, Ambassador Suominen disclosed that the main areas for the Finnish exports were ICT, heavy machinery, ITT and health, food and design.
There was a big surprise for many people in Korea, which transpired in the course of the interview. Ambassador Suominent disclosed, “A Korean company named Celltrion accounts for over 90% of market share in Finland in biosimilar pharm product and Finnish hospitals are most favorable to biosimilar pharma products for the benefit of the patients.”
Ambassador Surominent then emphasized the importance for increased cooperation between the business companies of the two countries for their mutual benefits. (For further details on Celltrion, scroll down to the bottom of this article.--Ed.)
President Tarja Halonen of Finland visited Seoul on April 8-11, 2002 at the invitation of the President Kim Dae-jung. On that occasion, Publisher-Chairman Lee Kyung-sik of The Korea Post media had an exclusive interview with President Halonen who expressed her strong wish for increased cooperation and friendship between Korea and Finland.
According to the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs (KMOFA), Finland is also the ‘Home Country of Santa Claus’ and a country of many distinctions.
Finland is the land of origin of Xylitol gum, saunas and the Moomin characters. It is a beautiful country where 1/3 of the territory is above the Arctic Circle, and more than 80% of its landscapes consist of forests, rivers, and lakes. Firmly grounded in a systematic social and welfare infrastructure, Finland ranked number one in the World Happiness Report 2018.
Based on a stable parliamentary democracy, Finland has nurtured outstanding competitiveness in a diverse range of fields, including transparency, education, innovation, gender equality, information technology, creativity and industrial design.
The worldwide success of Linux, Nokia, and games such as Angry Birds and Clash of Clans has been made possible in the innovative environment of the nation. Having reached the milestone of the 100th anniversary of independence in 2017, Finland is moving forward to meet the opportunities of the digital economy in the era of the 4th Industrial Revolution and 5G technology.
The KMOFA has a lot more in praise of Finland.
Since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1973, Korea and Finland have continued to foster close ties of cooperation. Both nations, overcoming the limitations of a lack of natural resources and the challenges in their geopolitical landscape, have always maintained their own sense of dignity and self-respect, further bolstering democracy and the market economy. With Korea’s potentialities and the sense of affinity grounded in the common elements between the two countries, Korea is working to further strengthen substantive cooperation with Finland in such fields as ICT (Information and Communication Technology), start-ups, defense industry, bio-industry, environment, and education.
Finnair’s launch of a direct flight between Incheon and Helsinki in 2008 has brought the peoples of the two countries closer together. Every year, more and more people of Finland are enjoying Korean culture including K-Pop and Korean foods. Likewise, Koreans are increasingly taking a greater interest in the history, society, and education of Finland.
Ambassador Suominen discussed a wide range of topics at the interview, which included the National Day of Finland, the incumbent Head of Government of Finland, the minister in charge of economic cooperation between Korea and Finland, Korean companies in Finland, areas where Korean companies are encouraged to invest in Finland and tourist attractions of the country. Details of the interview follow:
Question: My hearty congratulations on the National Day of your esteemed country! Please introduce in full the National Day of your country.
Answer: The national day of Finland is the 6th of December. It is celebrated because Finland became independent from Russia. Before that we used to be an autonomous grand duchy of the Russian Empire during 1809-1917. It is a public holiday i n Finland. The senate led by P.E Svinhuvfud gave a declaration of independence on Dec. 4, 1917 and it was approved by the Finnish parliament on the 6th of December.
Q: Please introduce the Head of Government of your country in full, including his/her family and hobbies.
A: The President of Finland is Sauli Niinistö. He is the 12th president of the republic of Finland. He first stepped into office on 1st of March 2012 and was re-elected 2018. He has a long career as a politician. He has been the speaker of the parliament 2007-2011; he has been the minister of finance, the minister of justice and the chair of the conservative party Kokoomus.
He is married to Jenni Haukio and has three children. Originally Niinistö was a lawyer. He has a pet dog, a French bulldog (Lennu), who has become very famous in Finland. The president’s hobbies include rollerblading.
Q: Please introduce the Government Minister in charge of economic cooperation and trade with Korea and other countries of the world.
A: Anne-Mari Virolainen is the current minister for foreign trade and development from February 2018. She has been a member of the parliament from 2007. She is a master of business administration. She is from Turku and has had a long career in private business sector. She is married with children.
Q: As the Ambassador to the Republic of Korea, please introduce the progress of bilateral cooperation in the economic, political and other areas so far made during your tenure of office in Korea and your view of the outlook of further development between the two countries.
A: During the years 2016 to 2018 the trade between Korea and Finland has increased a lot. Especially important is the export of services from Finland to Korea. The main areas for the Finnish exports are ICT, heavy machinery. ITT and health, food and design. Also during this time there has been a considerable increase in tourism from Korea to Finland. The political ties between Finland and Korea are very active. During my time here, here have been 8 ministerial visits, and education related delegation, speaker of the parliament and several visits by vice ministers. The country brand of Finland is very positive in Korea and I am very proud of that. Koreans know surprisingly lot about Finland.
The outlook is very positive, we have a lot of common when it comes to economy, history and culture. The chemistry between the countries works well. I wish that the interest of the Finns in Korea as a tourism spot would increase. Korea has a lot to offer when culture and sight are concerned. We just need more direct flights between the two countries to increase tourism further.
Q: Who are the Korean companies actively contributing to the economic cooperation between the two countries. Please omit the big as they are already widely known. Non-jaebeol businesses, and small and medium companies need information on their peers doing well in your country so that they could follow their suit in your country.
A: There are many Korean companies doing well in my country. Interesting facts are:-
Biosimilar (biopharma): A Korean company Celltrion accounts for over 90% of market share in Finland in biosimilar pharm product. Finnish hospitals are most favorable to biosimilar pharma products for the benefit of the patients.
There also other Korean business companies actively engaged in the promotion of economic cooperation and understanding between the peoples of Korea and Belgium and among them are Dongwha who has acquired a Finnish mill and C-Tri. There also are Korean financial institutions who acquired Finnish POSTI’s logistic centers, and others who offer R&D cooperation in the pharmaceutical field.
Q: What is the current volume of bilateral trade, and its outlook in the next 12 months?
A: There is a very good economic situation in Finland so trade should grow, but the Korean economy is facing some difficulties. So we are afraid the exports from Finland to Korea might suffer because of this. At the moment we are putting our trust in the service industry and also wish more Korean firms would invest in Finland.
Q: What are the areas in your country where you want Korean companies to invest in and what are the areas where you wish your businessmen to invest in Korea?
A: 1. R&D of pharma and digital healthcare due to the unique and world’s most favorable health-data infrastructure in Finland. Finland is leading the genetic-data based research by the global pharma companies. Ex: Finngen. As the Korean regulation does not allow easy use of patients’ health data in research and also digital/remote healthcare services in Korea, Finland is the best country for Korean companies to enter for the research and business model development under public private partnership.
2. Korean companies in the lithium ion battery value chain for e-vehicle. Especially precursor (cathode) manufacturers and cell manufacturers for the battery are welcome to Finland. Finnish government is offering joint venture opportunity to Korean companies in this field. Finland has all 3 key raw materials (nickel, cobalt, lithium) inside Finland, and it has one of the biggest refineries (chemicals) for these raw materials as well. So, Korean companies will benefit from the proximity of the global ecosystem.
3. Another area is AI as Finland has one of the best SW and data science engineering competence in the world. Finland is especially stronger in the AI in healthcare.
Q: Korean business leaders as well as the FTAs want rest and recuperation. What are the attractive tourist destinations of your country?
A: The most attractive destinations are Lapland and Helsinki. Finland has a lot of beautiful nature and scenery. Lakes and forests plus archipelago. Alongside Helsinki and Lapland, Lake District in eastern Finland is attractive Some cities like Turku, the old capital of Finland, Tampere, a cultural city and Jyväskylä, the hometown of famous Finnish architect Alvar Aalto are very nice.
Q: Please introduce yourself fully for the readers of the five media outlets of The Korea Post (3 in English and 2 in Korean).
A: I am Eero Suominen, the Ambassador of Finland.
I have been a diplomat for 30 years. I have served in 7 countries (I have been to Mexico, Germany, Italy, Brussels, Vienna, Gwangzhou (China) and as an ambassador in Korea).
I have master’s degrees from Helsinki University, State University of New York at Stonybrook USA, and University of Bristol in United Kingdom (social and behavioral sciences).
I am married and have 6 daughters.
About Celltrion who accounts for over 90% of :
Celltrion is rated to be a globally leading biologics company led by Chairman and CEO Jung Jin-Seo.
According to Chairman Jung, the company is committed to bringing value to people by helping them achieve healthier lives, and by doing so, hopes to promote the health and welfare of mankind.
Hare excerpts from the company related by Chairman Jung:
Since our founding in 2002, we have made significant investments in human resources, facilities and technology to become a global biologics company. Celltrion develops, manufactures, and distributes therapeutics based on Recombinant DNA and molecular biology.
"Advanced Therapeutics within Everyone's Reach"
Our corporate slogan embodies the duties and responsibilities of Celltrion.
We strive to create a new paradigm in the global biologics industry by offering alternative solutions for advanced therapeutics.
We are committed to providing affordable drugs to patients who previously had limited access to advanced therapeutics, in particular, those hindered by the high cost and relative shortage of antibody biologics.
During the decade, we were confronted with the daunting task of building the necessary capacity and technologies. We grappled with the great complexity of developing biosimilar mAbs as well as regulatory hurdles. But with an indomitable spirit, we have taken these challenges head on, relentlessly yet methodically pursuing research and development in promising projects and investing accordingly.
Fast forward to 2012, having received marketing approval for RemsimaTM, the world's first biosimilar mAb, we have not only created a new market which credibly challenges the dominance of the world's leading multinational pharmaceutical companies but also secured a favorable position to dominate this market for many years to come.
At Celltrion, we shall continue to spearhead the future of biologics industry. We will continue to perform our roles and responsibilities as a biologics company that serves the needs of patients throughout the world. We are committed to our mission of promoting the health and welfare of the global community by developing biosimilars as well as innovative next-generation drugs.