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S. Korea seeks to boost exports by small and medium-sized firms

South Korea will develop 10,000 new small and medium-sized exporters by 2017 as a way of enlarging its overall exports and boost electronic trade by more than 10-fold, the trade ministry announced Tuesday.

In its report to the trade-investment promotion commission chaired by President Park Geun-hye in Seoul, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said it plans to increase the number of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) involved in exporting by 10,000 to total 100,000 by 2017. To support the plan, the ministry will expand the overall size of the country's trade finance programs while freshly offering up to US$100,000 in trade insurance to first-time exporters.

The state-run Export-Import Bank of Korea will also offer special interest rates to these first-time exporters.

Currently, only 2.7 percent, or about 87,000 out of 3.2 million SMEs in South Korea, are engaged in trade.  Their combined trade volume accounts for about 33 percent of the country's total trade, compared to large firms who account for only about 2 percent of all companies in South Korea but dominate 67 percent of the total trade volume, according to the ministry.

"Creating 10,000 new export companies by 2017 will help create a new export market worth up to $20 billion per year," Kwon Pyung-oh, head of the ministry's trade and investment policy bureau, told a press briefing.

The $20 billion would represent a 3.6 percent rise from the country's overall exports of $559.72 billion last year. The ministry's tally showed South Korea's exports had gained 2.6 percent on-year in the first half.

To boost exports, the government will nurture the country's electronic trade market, the ministry said.

In 2013, the country's exports through e-trade amounted to some $24 million, compared with $700 million worth of products and services imported by South Korean firms and consumers through electronic means.

The government wants to increase e-trade exports to over $300 million in 2017.

To this end, the government will eliminate regulations that currently require consumers to have locally circulated electronic certificates when making online purchases, making it nearly impossible for those in other countries to make a purchase.

The government also plans to lower the shipping cost for e-trade goods.

A new cargo ferry service between South Korea's Incheon and China's Qingtao, for example, will be launched in December, offering a 40-percent reduction in shipping costs between the countries in exchange for a two-day delay to the average three days required under existing services.

The ministry has also signed an agreement with DHL and Fedex, under which the two global shipping companies will offer special group rates to South Korean exporters starting from September. (Yonhap)

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