BD-South Korea trade relations need revival
Trade relations between Bangladesh and South Korea have not progressed much in the past decade although significant achievements were made prior to it, said the East Asian nation's ambassador to Bangladesh yesterday.
South Korea's exports to Bangladesh amounted to $1.55 billion in 2010 and decreased to $1.03 billion in 2020. It stood at $1.05 billion in the first eight months of 2021, said the envoy, LEE Jang-keun.
As for Bangladesh's exports to South Korea, it was $139 million in 2010 and grew to just $392 million in 2020. It stood at $336 million in the first eight months of 2021, he said.
"So, we need to look back what happened in the past and understand the current situation to improve it in the future," said the ambassador.
His comments came at a webinar on "Exploring Korea-Bangladesh Relations in the Last Five Decades and Beyond" organised by the Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS).
However, of all foreign direct investment made in Bangladesh, South Korea's $1.2 billion is the fourth biggest as of March 21, ahead of China's $1.03 billion, said LEE Jang-keun.
He said since the early 1980s, South Korea has been the leading foreign investor in the readymade garment sector.
Back then, Desh Garments Ltd started exports with Daewoo Group's machinery, technical expertise and training to staff, who have gone on to open hundreds of exporting firms of their own, he added.
He said another significant stride in bilateral trade relations was made with the inauguration of a Korean export processing zone, where 67 factories are now housed employing over 26,000 people.
He said Samsung Bangladesh started manufacturing operations here in 2009 and partnered with Fair Electronics Limited and Transcom Limited. It grew from making televisions to washing machines, refrigerators and smartphones.
Hyundai Motors Bangladesh Limited partnered with Fair Technology Limited to establish an automobile assembling plant in a hi-tech park in Gazipur's Kaliakair, operations of which would start by February next year, said the ambassador.
According to him, Bangladesh receives the third largest official development assistance of South Korea.
The cooperation in infrastructural development through private-public partnerships and technology transfers will be imperative in attaining industrial diversification, said Md Emdad Ul Bari, director general of the BIISS.
"Youngone Corporation formed the first equity joint-venture garment factory with a Bangladeshi firm in 1980," he said.
The cooperation brought massive societal change by economically uplifting a large cohort of poor and vulnerable women, he added.
Korea International Cooperation Agency's (Koica) assistance projects enabled human resource development, most notably three vocational training centres in Dhaka, Chattogram and Rajshahi, said M Fazlul Karim, chairman of the BIISS.
These will help meet the growing demand for skilled workforce both at home and abroad, he added.
Koica has set up 100 IT labs in secondary schools in Dhaka to help strengthen ICT capacity for computer teachers, endowing students with basic computer literacy and ICT education, said Karim.
An Economic Development Cooperation Fund has also enabled ICT education and training in Dhaka since 2012, he added.