The state-run Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) has decided to withdraw from Venezuela amid the escalating political turmoil, sources said on Jan. 30, 2019.
According to official insiders, KOTRA plans to shut down its Caracas-based office March 1. Its business center located in Panama will continue to oversee Venezuela-related affairs.
Officials from KOTRA said the move came as the South American country has been facing political instability, threatening the safety of the staff.
"KOTRA maintained its office in Libya during the ouster of its leader Muammar Gaddafi, helping (South Korea) benefit in terms of business after the uncertainties ended," a KOTRA official said.
"While we are also maintaining our Teheran-based office despite the sanctions from Washington against Iran, we decided to move out of Venezuela due to the bloodshed," the official added.
The Caracas office opened in March 1970. The office has one worker from KOTRA, along with three local employees.
Numerous South Korean companies have already moved out of the country, with some businessmen staying in Panama or in the United States to look after their corporate interests.
"While KOTRA managed to maintain the office in Venezuela amid the economic crisis, there had been discussions to close it starting last year as the office was struggling in terms of performance," a KOTRA official said.
The Korea International Trade Association estimated South Korea's exports to Venezuela came to US$51 million for 2017, down 84.2 percent on-year. The figure came to $14 million for the January-September period of 2018. (Yonhap)