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[Herald Interview] Procurement agency pledges full support for small businesses

Procurement Expo to connect promising firms with foreign buyers

Smaller companies are often at a disadvantage when it comes to competing for government contracts, partly due to heavy red tape.

“The main goal of all of our business innovations is so that everyone who is involved may be able to more easily and quickly join the system,” Min Hyung-jong, administrator of the Public Procurement Service, explained in a recent interview with The Korea Herald.

Min is one of the few chiefs of the agency who has been promoted from within. 

In addition to having more than three decades of experience in the industry, he was found to have a keen sense of compassion and understanding for those who are working for and in procurement.

Since taking the helm of the procurement agency in March 2013, Min said he had visited as many local companies as possible to see what was going right and what was not. 
Min Hyung-jong, administrator of the Public Procurement Service. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)
Min Hyung-jong, administrator of the Public Procurement Service. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)

“We know that the industry is not an easy one, and we hope that by reducing red tape, we will be able to get more companies ― especially the small and mid-sized enterprises ― to be able to offer their quality goods for more people,” the administration said.

Procurement Expo

Due to a saturated local market, the agency is connecting these up-and-coming companies to overseas buyers.

The agency has been hosting an annual exhibition each April for more than a decade. The event serves as a platform to introduce local products to overseas procurement offices.

This year’s Korea Public Procurement Expo kicks off Wednesday for three days at the Coex exhibition hall in Southern Seoul.

There will be a special exhibition venue for SMEs at this year’s exposition, and these companies will mostly be focused in sectors such as information, communications and technology companies.

They will be given a chance to promote their products and engage with more than 19 foreign buyers from six different countries, according to the state-run agency.

“The three-day special exhibition allows participants to benefit from one-on-one meetings with purchasing officers from public agencies around the world,” Min said.

Online revolution

The country’s procurement service agency is promoting the use of the online procurement systems, which eliminate unnecessary costs by digitalizing the procurement process from bidding to billing, all with a few clicks of the mouse.

The procurement agency has deployed the Korea ON-line E-Procurement System, or KONEPS, across the entire public sector since 2002.

Now, more than 45,000 public organizations and 250,000 companies interact through the digitalized procurement system, with transactions totaling more than 72.7 trillion won ($68 billion) in 2013, according to the agency.

Min says Korea is one of the few nations in the world to have been so widely deploying such an advanced, digitalized procurement system.

To reduce red tape, the Public Procurement Service in 2013 identified some 100 business practices that needed to be improved for a fair and more efficient procurement process.

Under his guidance, the agency has already implemented changes to some 97 of those practices in just the past three months.

Min admits, however, that there is still room for improvement.

As future tasks, he called for more transparency in the procurement process to reduce the barriers for smaller business in line with President Park Geun-hye administration’s three-year economic innovation plan.

The main objectives of the plan were promoting deregulation and corporate investment.

“Our job is to make sure firms of all sizes are given a fair chance,” he said.

By Oh Kyu-wook and Lee Kwon-hyung 
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