By Heejae Park, Research Intern, East-West Center in Washington. He is an Asan Washington Young Fellow with the Asan Academy in Seoul. He is also a student of Kyunghee University in South Korea.
Note: this article originally appeared in the East-West Center’s Asia Matters for America/America Matters for Asia initiative on December 19, 2017.
Ten start-ups recently participated in Milwaukee’s entrepreneurship accelerator program, which encourages investment from US angel investors and venture capital firms, into South Korean companies, and finds new distribution partners to help expand into Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
The agreement was reached in Seoul during a meeting of representatives from Wisconsin and Daegu-Gyeongbuk province. The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) calls for the assistance of the South Korean technology-based start-up companies in their participation in the Technology Acceleration and Globalization (TAG) program which is run by Mid-West Energy Research Consortium (M-WERC) and Daegu-Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology(DGIST).
The agreement was achieved during Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s trade mission in South Korea. Walker introduced Wisconsin’s business advantages to members of the Korean International Trade Association and the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry through a presentation highlighting the state’s central location, strong workforce, and history of innovation.
Governor Walker met with South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon, Minister of Trade Kim Hyun-chon, and Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon to discuss potential partnerships between Wisconsin and South Korea. He also visited a unit of the Wisconsin Air National Guard currently stationed at Kunsan Air Base. Additionally, he laid a wreath in honor of Wisconsin troops who gave their lives during the Korean War at the Korean War Memorial in Seoul.
The trade relationship between South Korea and Wisconsin continues to expand thanks to initiatives like this one. Exports of meat from Wisconsin to South Korea nearly doubled between 2010 and 2015, from $23.3 million to $42.6 million. Additionally, Wisconsin exported $6.6 million of cheese to South Korea in 2015, more than doubling in the amount exported in 2010. In 2015, Wisconsin exported $7.7 million in plastics to Korea, a 56% increase from its 2011 total of $4.9 million. Cultural ties remained close as well: there are more than 8,000 Koreans and Korean-Americans living in Wisconsin. There were also more than 1,000 students from Korea studying at universities in Wisconsin during the 2014-2015 academic year.