HANLON CENTRE

A Hanlon Day with the Korean Consul General

Release Date : June 06, 2013

Story by: Jessica Wallace

Photos by: Nick Kokkastamapoulos


Korean Consul General from Vancouver, Mr. Yeon-Ho Choi, visited Saskatoon on May 31st, 2013, as a guest of the Hanlon Centre for International Business Studies and the Saskatchewan International Trade Officer (SITO) Program’s Visiting Consul-General Series.

Consul General Choi had many objectives for his visit, one of which was to explore current export opportunities from Saskatchewan to Korea.  Carolyn Aziz and Brandon Ziola, two Hanlon Student Associates and SITO Student Liaison Officers, arranged an eclectic tour itinerary to match the Korean consulate's desire to see as many industries and sectors possible.  One such meeting included the Saskatchewan Trade and Export Partnership (STEP), where Choi met with Executive Director Brad Michnick. 

Choi suggested Saskatchewan's pork industry could increase it exports by investing more money into the market, given Korea's rapidly rising demand for pork meat.  Another interesting suggestion from the Korean government was to export Saskatoon berries, not only as food but as a beauty cream.  “The Saskatoon berries have high levels of antioxidants which are good for the skin,” Choi said. “Beauty is a very popular market in Korea in which consumers are willing to pay a premium.” 

Choi was then introduced by the Hanlon and SITO team to the Greater Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce, where current and past presidents Kent Smith-Windsor and Monica Kreuger respectively, as well as chamber member Norm Wallace, founder and president of Wallace Construction, spoke of entrepreneurial opportunities for Korean immigrants.  “Koreans run a majority of the gas stations in small towns outside of the major urban centers, but there are also other opportunities, especially in the processing industry,” said Wallace. Resulting discussions between the Korean consulate-general and the chamber suggested the two worlds host reciprocal business-to-business delegations where Koreans could visit and see what business opportunities are available in Saskatoon, while a Saskatoon delegation would travel to Korea to explore their economic markets.

The Korean delegation said the Saskatchewan government needs to do more to showcase its industries and opportunities.  “Other provincial governments and business chambers in Canada do a much better job at promoting opportunities in their districts.  Perhaps what Saskatchewan needs to do is make a list to show what opportunities are available and communicate those to the Korean Consulate in Vancouver,” suggested Jay Choi, the consul general’s economic assistant. 

Another chamber member afterwards included Ken Ziegler, an immigration lawyer from Robertson Stromberg LLP.  Ziegler explained the unique situation Korean immigration in Vancouver.  “There is a large immigration consulting industry that brings many families to Vancouver.  Many immigrants, however, struggle there because of the high cost of living and the current economic situation. I really want to promote Saskatchewan as a great place to live,” he said.  Ziegler explained that immigration consulting is a competitive industry, and that there needs to be a new way of getting the information across to new Canadians.  “There are many things that make Saskatchewan a great place to live, such as lower expenses, a high standard of living, a booming economy, and great opportunities for entrepreneurs, but people never hear about these things because they are usually being consulted from Vancouver,” said Ziegler.  “If the Korean government would like to send people here, the best thing to do would be to link interested clientele directly to Saskatchewan immigration lawyers and consultants.”    

Aziz and Ziola, along with their Hanlon Director/SITO Program Honorary Advisor and mentor Nicholas Kokkastamapoulos, then hosted Consul-General Choi on University of Saskatchewan's main campus for education-related meetings.  A joint meeting was arranged with Derek Tannis of the International Student and Study Abroad Centre, Dale Yellowlees of the Centre for Continuing and Distance Education, David Parkinson of the University Language Centre, and Brooke Klassen, director of the Bachelor of Commerce undergraduate program. Choi said that Korea has a highly-educated population, with approximately 87% of its people attending some form of post-secondary education.  The group discussed the Korean student population, and what the U of S could do to recruit more students and form more study abroad programs between Canada and Korea.

The SITO Program also arranged for Choi, while on campus, to deliver a lecture to university students about Korea and Canada's 50th Anniversary and its growing trade relationship.

Next on the agenda was a visit to Potash Corp, where the delegation met with Bill Johnson, senior director of public affairs, and Chet Reynolds, senior director of global government relations.  Bill explained the recent trends in potash and the reasons for the rise in global demand. Choi asked about future trends in potash, and mentioned that Korea re-exports potash.  “We refine or produce secondary potash products in Korea, then export them to neighboring countries,” he said.

The last meeting of the day was a private one with Korean community members, before the consul-general and his assistant said farewell to the Hanlon Centre and SITO Program.  Consul-General Choi complimented Kokkastamapoulos and the student team for their professionalism and hosting skills.  "Given my international experience, I am prepared when visiting remote areas with smaller populations that its representatives might be limited in their knowledge of my country and its business customs,” he said. “Not so with my Saskatchewan hosts. At the airport, these students surprised me with Korean greetings, and throughout their chaperone I was treated to even more expressions and mannerisms common amongst my people. It is apparent they did extensive research of my country's sectors and industries and what might make compatible trade with Saskatchewan. Their hospitality and engagement was on par with what one might expect from real consulate staff. I was very impressed, and leave with a very favourable opinion of this province and its educated youth. I wish to work with them again."

Aziz, who said Consul-General Choi was her sixth guest as part of the SITO Program's experiential learning opportunity, added, “I had an amazing time hosting the Korean delegation.  I learned why their culture is so business savvy.  Korea is a country with virtually no natural resources, yet Koreans managed to build a very sustainable economy and educated workforce. That task alone requires great skill.  Saskatchewan has a great opportunity to further trade with Korea, since many of our exports match their import needs. I hope they had a great time, and that some great business initiatives come out of this visit.”

The Hanlon Centre for International Business Studies serves the Edwards School of Business to help build and provide global business awareness and related skills training opportunities for its commerce students.  For more information, contact Nicholas Kokkastamapoulos (Hanlon Director) or Jessica Wallace / Brandon Ziola (Hanlon Media & Communications) by email at hanloncentre@edwards.usask.ca or telephone at (306) 966-1837.