International Marketing -- South Korea Country Study
The primordial question at the basis of this study revolves around the attractiveness of South Korea to American investors. Otherwise put, is this country able to determine the American investor to launch business operations in this global part? In order to answer the posed question, a series of analyses will be conducted. Some of these will refer to the general context, whilst others will detail specific issues.
The country is located in the eastern part of Asia; enjoys a temperate climate and owns less than 20% arable land. South Korea is characterized by a tormented historic past, which explains well the differences emerged between the two regions of the Korean Peninsula. The total population of the country exceeds 48 million, and their life expectancy at birth is of almost 79 years. The interactions with the South Koreans are generally formal and follow protocols, nevertheless based on social communications; traces of gender segregation can still be observed.
From an economic standpoint, South Korea is in all instances superior to the global averages. Despite the fact that the United States of America registers superior values in terms of total and per capita GDP, the East Asian country registers superior values in terms of GDP growth rate. South Korea's three top trading partners are China, Japan and the United States. In its international commerce relationship with the U.S., South Korea has managed to maintain a positive trade balance.
Foreign investors are continually attracted to the country both as it reveals abilities to multiply the investments, as well as due to the incentives offered by the federal authorities. One such incentive refers to the massive investments in the development of a strong infrastructure.
The contemporaneous era is characterized by numerous elements, two of the most outstanding ones being the growing forces of globalization, and the rapid pace of development. Globalization manages to remove barriers between countries and makes it as such easier for economic, cultural or political values to transcend from one global region to the next. The technological era allows the individual or the organization to more efficiency gather the information they require. This aspect is of the utmost importance when considering a foreign country as a potential location for one's future business operations. Considering that an American organization looks at South Korea as to a potential host for their business endeavors, it is required for them to be aware of certain elements that characterize the country officially known as Republic of Korea.
3. Brief History of South Korea
The history of South Korea is best characterized by turmoil. The Korean peninsula had historically been tormented by desires for power from both the natives, as well as the foreigners. In the first century before our era, the isthmus was divided between three kingdoms. In the year 668 however, one of the dynasties, Silla, managed to unite the three courts. Despite common invasions from the Moguls or the Manchus, the new formation was independently run by successive Korean dynasties until 1910, when it was occupied by Japan.
The Japanese occupants ruled the island in a brutal way, which ended however with the competition of World War II. The Korean peninsula was then broken into two parts. The northern part was granted to the Soviet Union and the southern part was placed under the supervision of the United States (Gonzales and Sherer, 2004).
Similar to the case of Germany, South and North Korea were subjected to strong influences of the west and the east, with the south managing to become a well developed country, whereas the north suffering the demise of the soviets and paying the price of economic and social collapse. Today for instance, South Korea is the 14th largest country in terms of gross domestic product; North Korea is featured on the 96th position; the list contains 266 states and was completed by the Central Intelligence Agency. The differences and the separation between the north and south regions were also exacerbated by the occurrence of the Cold War, an ideological battle between the United States and the Soviet Union, which placed additional challenges in the unification, desired by the populations.
After the Cold War, South Korea continued its diplomatic efforts to secure the unification with North Korea. In 2000 even, South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung became the recipient of the Nobel Prize for Peace (Nobel Prize, 2009). Diplomatic efforts are also sustained with the aim of improving the relations with Japan, but some disputes still arise in terms of land division. The most relevant example in this sense is offered by the Liancourt Rocks, a number of small islands located to the east of South Korea, and to which both countries claim sovereignty (Global Security, 2009). Given this situation, it would be advisable for the American investor to not open plants in these islands, as they reveal increased levels of political stability.
As it own name states, South Korea is located in the southern half of the Korean peninsula, situated in the eastern part of Asia; it borders the Sea of Japan and the Yellow Sea. Its total area is of 98,480 square kilometers, with the majority of 98,190 square kilometers being land and the remaining 290 square kilometers being waters. The climate is a temperate one, rains being heavier in summer than in winter. The land is represented mostly by hills and mountains and a few coastal plains in the western and southern parts of the country. The natural resources encountered in this region refer primarily to coal, graphite, lead, tungsten, as well as significant potential for hydropower. Less that 20% of the entire national land is used for agricultural activities (Geography About, 2009).
The geographic characteristics of South Korea tell the American individual that the country is easily reachable by sea, that it has the potential to support the creation of alternative sources of energy and that agricultural investments would retrieve low levels of returns.
At the census conducted in July 2009, South Korea had a population of 48,508,972 individuals, of a median age of 37.3. Their life expectancy at birth is of 78.72 years, and the population grows at an annual rate of 0.26%. The birth and death rates are of 8.93, respectively 5.94, per 1,000 people. Most of the South Koreans are atheists -- 49.3% of the entire population; 26.3% of the South Koreans subscribe to the Christian faith, followed closely by Buddhism with 23.2%, and a small percentage of 1.3 of other religions. The South Korean men are expected to spend 18 years in school, whereas the women are expected to spend maximum 15 years in school (Central Intelligence Agency).
6. Socio-Cultural Aspects
The official language in South Korea is Korean, with English being the second most commonly spoken language. English is taught in schools, both junior high as well as high schools. Additionally, the literacy rates are among the highest in the world -- 97.9% for the overall population, with 99.2% for males and 96.6% for females (Central Intelligence Agency). While the difference in the literacy rates of men and women points to the existence of gender discrimination materialized in the reduced access of women to education, the large numbers of English speaking individuals translates into the ability of the U.S. citizen to easy interact with the locals. Given however that the foreign trade partner is interested in learning the Korean language so as to impress the local businessmen, it is interesting to note that, despite the closeness to China, the Korean language is more similar to the Japanese language (Gonzales and Sherer).
The South Koreans regard the family as the core of their lives, with the well-being of the household being the primordial interest, over the individual well-being of the family members. The father is the undisputable leader of the family, with the second in the authority and responsibility line being the first born son. Korean meetings are pertaining to state etiquette, with bows commencing and ending them. In more recent times however, Koreans will also shake hands with the foreigners, revealing as such a cultural blend. Relative to business relationships, these are best established and consolidated through social interactions. The South Koreans must first build trustworthy relationships, and then they will commit their efforts to achieving the mutually fruitful business objectives (Kwintessential).
The Republic of Korea has its capital at Seoul and is divided into 9 administrative divisions. It gained its independence on the 15th of August 1945, a day which is celebrated each year as the national holiday. The executive branch is formed from President Lee Myung-bak and his Prime Minister Chung Un-chan. The legislative branch is formed from the unicameral National Assembly (Kukhoe) and the judicial power falls in the hands of the Supreme Court (Central Intelligence Agency).
As mentioned throughout the previous sections, South Korea is the 14th largest economy of the globe, with a gross domestic product of $1.338 trillion, similar and even higher…