Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Chinese Dust:

As children, we are taught at an early age not to stare at the sun.  Youth of today could be excused for their skepticism.  In Seoul, in early March 2019, even at midday, staring at the sun (if you can see it at all), poses little danger to the retina. Dust from the Gobi Desert has delivered a fine, yellow tint to the spring skies in Korea for centuries.  In the past decades, as China industrialized, the factories along the East coast have emitted pollutants into the atmosphere which have bonded with the yellow dust and delivered a noxious health risk to the Korean peninsula.  While I have titled this piece 'Chinese Dust', political correctness now dictates that it be called 'fine dust' to disassociate it from China, an increasingly important political stakeholder. Nevertheless, these Chinese chemical imports are inflicting a tremendous cost on the Korean population.  Hospital outpatient visits spike on highly polluted days, instances of pneumonia and chronical lung suffers are growing.  Even heart disease grown is attributed to the dust.
Korea has implemented multiple responses to this problem.  Probably the most meaningful is political efforts to establish cooperative efforts with China and Japan to address the problem. The majority of the problem comes from China so the major solution must be found there.  Korean NGOs have established programs to plant trees in the Gobi Desert to try to stem the relentless expansion of the arid region.
Closer to home, the government has turned its attention to local contributors to the problem. For more than a decade, natural gas has been applied to home heating as well as fueling all city buses and taxis. Recently, tour bus drivers were instructed not to idle their engines when waiting for passengers. Korea has established a goal to convert all vehicles to environmentally friendly alternatives (e.g. we will produce 6.2 million hydrogen cars by 2040). The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy has announced that it will suspend operation of 'old' coal fired power plants.  The first (unsuccessful) attempt to seed clouds to promote rain was implemented in January 2019.
In the meantime, the government broadcasts warnings about dangerously high levels of pollutants almost on a daily basis.  Virtually everyone on the streets is seen wearing a mask.  The market for air purifiers has tripled since 2016.  There is a discernible migration of families to rural locations down country (Jeju island being particularly attractive) or even overseas.
The challenge appears daunting and politically complicated but efforts on many fronts must be implemented simultaneously if Seoul is to again see the sun.

Peter Underwood, IRC Consulting Managing Partner. 

Monday, March 4, 2019

2019 March COEX Exhibition Schedule

Korea CES - Korea Electronics IT Industry Convergence Exhibition

Korea Electronics IT Industry Convergence Exhibition

January 29  ~ 31, 2019
Dongdaemoon Design Plaza

The Korea Electronics IT Industry Convergence Exhibition, was inspired by the US CES show in Las Vegas (therefore known as "Korea CES"). This exhibition was organized by the Ministry of Science and ICT, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy and the Ministry of SMEs and Startups at very short notice only about 9 days before it opened.  Local electronic players such as Samsung, LG, SKT, Naver and Coway were pressed to join as exhibitors. The primary focus was for the public and startups to experience new technology and get a taste of the nation's potential. Held at Dongdaemoon Design Plaza in the center of Seoul, it was open to the public free of charge. Korean President Moon Jae-in visited the exhibition to give it gravitas and to encourage the companies.

The exhibition displayed many interesting new technologies such as AI, VR, fin-tech, health tech and electronic applications in many other industries. We found LG’s The Wall 219” 6K Micro LED display the most interesting because it seemed so real.


The media heavily criticized the exhibition.  First, it was focused on the public rather than industry buyers so there was no commercial value to the exhibitors.  Second, the very short time to prepare was insufficient to develop superior exhibits or to promote the event to visitors.

Should the event be repeated in the future, it would be a good opportunity for foreign companies wishing to introduce or promote their brands to consumers in Korea.  Future events would probably be less rushed and would allow more time for preparation of eye-popping displays.

If you would like to identify and capitalize on business opportunities in Korea, let IRC Guide your Way!,

Education, Key of the Future - EDUTEC

January 16rd ~ 18th, 2019
COEX Hall A & B, Seoul Korea

Exhibits: EdTech·Education Trend, Smart Schools, Educational Contents, Vocational Education & School·Institute Promotion, Educational Environmental Facilities, Culture · Arts · Physical Education

2018 Exhibitions Results
   215 exhibitors
   33,362 visitors

EDUTEC was opened by VIP educators, both local and from overseas. Compared to past events related to education, EDUTEC attracted many more visitors and exhibitors. The exhibition was divided into two halls A and B. A Hall was primarily about future educational content, education environment, smart school, coding/AI/VR. B hall was more related to actual education and seminars for teachers and parents.


Coding education was a 'hot' subject and there were many exhibitors with coding education programs.

   VR Education:

VR exhibitors drew both teachers and students and accounted for a significant number of exhibitors.  Experiential opportunities drew many visitors. VR education also supported job interview preparation and other sectors outside of student education.

Other exhibitors also provided hands-on learning experiences and attracted many visitors.

There were three seminar rooms providing information to visitors featuring a range of topics from general information to specific educational opportunities.


Most of the exhibitors were local entities and the visitors were domestic teachers, students and parents.  While there were few international exhibitors, EDUTEC would be a good opportunity to obtain wide exposure to educational products and services.  International exhibitors would need to be careful to pitch their presentation to a Korean audience, information would have to be presented in Korean and experiential activities would draw the largest crowds.

If you would like to identify and capitalize on business opportunities in Korea, let IRC Guide your Way!  www.ircconsultingkorea.comJacob at

Sunday, March 3, 2019


World Franchise Expo 2019
January 3rd ~ 5th, 2019
COEX Seoul Korea

The 'World Franchise Expo (WFE)' is the most extensive, ongoing franchise industry exhibition in Korea. WFE exhibits biannually, once at COEX in Seoul and once at KINTEX in Gyeonggi province.  This year was the 50th WFE.

Categories: Franchises were presented in five categories:
   Foodservice franchises
   Non-foodservice franchises
   Retail for franchises
   Service for franchises
   Facilities for franchises

In 2018, the WFE attracted
   200 exhibitors
   37,628 visitors (More than 40% from Seoul)

Entrance to the 50th World Franchise Expo

The primary target for the show is individuals interested in opening a franchise. WFE holds seminars to explain strategies to successfully start a franchise and provide other crucial information regarding the franchise industry.  Compared to other exhibitions we have attended, the exhibitors were very enthusiastic, aggressively introducing their service/products on the first day of WFE.  Listening to the exhibitors, we felt the urge to start the perfect franchise business.

   Foodservice Franchises

Foodservice franchises were most widely represented at the WFE. There were all different types of fast-food businesses such as pizza, street-food, noodles and seafood, and Korean barbeque.  Even though the café market in Korea appears over-saturated, coffee focused franchises were attracting attendees.

   Entertainment Franchises

The non-foodservice franchises were primarily focused on entertainment such as PC bangs (Cyber-café), board game cafés and other entertainment franchises.  Many of these franchises also provided food to boost revenue.  One interesting concept was the study café which provides a small space to study and rest.  


   Retail Franchises

Retail franchises were targeting new businesses and franchise headquarters to extend their sales. 

   Services for Franchises

Services were mostly related to real estate. There was an agency that not only provides franchise consulting but has partnerships with franchisees to provide a franchise experience to allow potential franchisees to experience operating a franchise before making an actual investment or startup. 


   Facilities for Franchises

There were a few facility related booths such as Samsung seeking local distributors for air conditioning and similar products.  


   One-Person Business

Walking the show and observing what booths attracted the visitors, it appears that a major trend was towards self-employment opportunities. With the rise in unemployment (driven by a sudden increase in minimum wage and stricter employment laws), self-employment opportunities seemed to have a much stronger appeal than in past years.

  Challenges & Opportunities:

Even though the exhibition is called the World Franchise Expo, it seems to be very locally focused.  The webpage was entirely in Korea with no English introduction. Also, Korean franchises generate their income not from royalties but by adding a margin to products or profit generating logistics services. The World Franchise Expo will help to understand the franchise environment in Korea and provide an opportunity to meet a potential Korea business partner. 

If you would like to identify and capitalize on business opportunities in Korea, let IRC Guide your Way!,