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Number of Chinese firms here triples in decade

The number of Chinese firms making inroads into the local market has climbed almost three-fold over the past decade, reflecting its expanding presence as Korea’s No. 1 trading partner and the world’s second-largest economy, tax authorities said Monday.

The National Tax Service said the number of companies headquartered in mainland China reached 620 as of the end of 2009, up from 225 in 1999. Combined with the number of Hong Kong entrants, the number grows to 990, accounting for more than 10 percent of the total number of foreign companies operating here, which is 9075.

“It really shows how fast they are expanding overall. If this trend continues for the next 10 years, Chinese companies could account for the largest portion of the foreign corporate presence in Korea,” an NTS official said.

Chinese companies have the third-largest business presence here after Japan and the U.S., with 2,509 and 2,009 businesses.

The majority of Chinese businesses here are engaged in retail and wholesale businesses, while more than half of Japanese companies here are in manufacturing. IT and consulting services accounted for the largest business share of U.S. companies here.

The number of Chinese entrants here grew as China became Korea’s largest trading partner since 2004. The bilateral trade between the two reached $200 billion in 2010.

China overtook Japan as the world’s second-largest economy in the second quarter of last year. The International Monetary Fund predicted in its latest World Economic Outlook that China will surpass the U.S. as the world’s largest economy as early as 2016. The international lender says the Chinese economy would then reach $19 trillion, compared to the U.S. economy of $18.8 trillion.

By Cynthia J. Kim (