The New Zealand Chamber of Commerce in Korea, also known as the Kiwi Chamber, marked another year of innovation, growth and friendship between New Zealand and Korea at an annual year-end hui, or gathering, last week.
The event at the Four Seasons Hotel Seoul on Wednesday drew some 200 guests, including New Zealand Ambassador to Korea Clare Fearnley, Wellington Mayor Justin Lester, Chamber Chairman Tony Garrett and Dongwon CNS Vice Chairman Park In-koo.
“The relationship between Korea and New Zealand has continued to expand since the Korea-New Zealand free trade agreement entered into force (on Dec. 20, 2015),” said Fearnley in a speech. “Innovation and collaboration across new sectors are a major driving force behind the growth,” she added, noting Lester’s visit will be a catalyst for enhancing bilateral linkages.
Fearnley will leave Korea this year to start her next posting as ambassador to China.
From left: Dongwon CNS Vice Chairman Park In-koo, New Zealand Ambassador to Korea Clare Fearnley, Kiwi Chamber Chairman Tony Garrett and Wellington Mayor Justin Lester (Edge Communications)
“We all want Wellington to thrive and be a place with lots of jobs, plenty of events and a strong cultural scene,” Lester vowed on the city council website. “Our city also needs to be fair and provide quality local services to those who choose to settle here. Wellingtonians have told me they want their mayor and council to be innovative, decisive and have new ideas. I’m going to work hard with a united team of councilors and council officers to deliver on that.”
Lester was elected to office last year, and worked as the city of Wellington’s deputy mayor from 2013-2016 and councilor for the Northern Ward from 2010. He was a businessman working in property and asset management prior to entering politics. Seoul and Wellington became friendship cities last year.
The 38-year-old mayor presented capital Wellington as a city of creative lifestyles, art and culture and distinct Kiwi architecture at the reception. His policies have focused on vitalizing the economy, making housing affordable, improving the city’s transport, replacing outdated bylaws and prioritizing arts funding.
Lester led a delegation of Wellington businesses, academics and artists to Korea to further strengthen people-to-people links between Wellington and Korea. He met leaders in startups and small and medium-sized enterprises, film, education, digital governance and other areas during his visit.
“One of the core initiatives of the Kiwi Chamber is our ‘Inspire with Innovation’ series, which focuses on mutually beneficial collaboration in innovation between Korea and New Zealand,” said Garrett. “We are very fortunate to have Ambassador Fearnley and Mayor Lester with us this evening to understand how innovation impacts both business relationships and creative cities.”
Korean goods exports to New Zealand stood at $1.4 billion in June, with strong growths in vehicles, boilers, machinery and mechanical appliances as well as iron and steel sectors. Korea is New Zealand’s seventh-largest importing country.
New Zealand’s exports to Korea have also increased with strong gains in the food and beverage sector, which rose nearly 30 percent from the beginning of last year to June this year to $455 million. Other industries that have benefited from the free trade agreement include meat, dairy products, fruit, vegetables, wine and beer.
The two economies have gained from science and innovation partnerships in information and communication, digital, bio and health technologies. In particular, collaborations in 4-D technology, health and agricultural robotics and Antarctic research have been cemented.
By Joel Lee (email@example.com