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Experts emphasize CSR at Foreign Investment Week

A group of foreign multinationals convened Wednesday to seek ways to enhance corporate social responsibility in South Korea that has been facing growing public disappointment over a series of corporate scandals involving foreign companies here.

“A slew of big sandals happened simultaneously and foreign companies are concerned with the animosity toward them,” Jeffrey Kim, head of the Foreign Investment Ombudsman said. “However, there are more than 17,000 foreign companies here contributing 20 percent of the country’s total exports and 6 percent of the employment in this country.”

Jeffrey Kim from the Foreign Investment Ombudsman speaks at the CSR activities forum of foreign-invested enterprises Wednesday, which took place as part of the Foreign Investment Week. (KOTRA)
Jeffrey Kim from the Foreign Investment Ombudsman speaks at the CSR activities forum of foreign-invested enterprises Wednesday, which took place as part of the Foreign Investment Week. (KOTRA)


The forum was held after some foreign invested companies in South Korea including Oxy Reckitt Benckiser, IKEA and Volkswagen came under fire recently for faulty products.

Kim said the customer hostility might wane after the scandals die down, but companies should continue to get involved with CSR activities.

“A smart company implements CSR activities related to their core business competence, which is more effective than being just a good company involved in donation and charity activities, which often have nothing to do their works,” Jung said during a forum on CSR. The forum was part of the Foreign Investment Week co-organized by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy and state-run Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency.

Jung cited CSR practices by IBM Korea, Basf Korea and B. Braun as examples of CSR activities by “smart companies.” Tech giant IBM Korea, for instance, uses IT and consulting skills as part of their CSR activities.

Andre Nothomb, head of government and public affairs Solvay Asia-Pacific said in a separate speech that the company will continue to devote themselves to their CSR efforts. The Belgium chemical company that came to South Korea in the 1970s runs various CSR programs, including emergency response drills and scholarships in order to grow together with Korean society, he said.

The 12th Foreign Investment Week opened Tuesday for a three-day run in Seoul. This year, more than 1,300 people participated, including 337 foreign investors from 291 companies. The number of participants grew 30 percent more than the previous year, setting a new record, KOTRA said. The event is held to connect foreign investors with local partners and to seek new business opportunities in the country. In light of the foreign investors visiting Korea this week, the number of Chinese visitors jumped twofold compared to last year, reaching 74 companies, the export promotion agency.

Other forums were held on various topics including cultural content and business strategies, and also introductory sessions on South Korea’s free trade agreements and the country’s push to promote the new energy sector.
 
By Park Ga-young (Gagypark@heraldcorp.com">gypark@heraldcorp.com)
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