Many older sheep farmers will readily recall the golden days of the Korean wool boom, when wool was supposedly worth “a pound for a pound”, and the natural fibre enjoyed its zenith before synthetics dominated.
While the “pound for a pound” claim has proven to be somewhat stretched, the ties New Zealand built with South Korea as a result of the boom have stood the test of time.
NZ trade commissioner Stephen Blair said South Koreans have long memories and have not forgotten the valuable contribution this country made in defending theirs against the Chinese communist army’s invasion between 1950 and 1953.
“At the time NZ had 5000 troops come that were actually volunteers, something that was really surprising to most Koreans,” Blair said.
Over the week of ANZAC Day he journeyed north to the South Korean town of Kapyong. The town marks the location of the Battle of Kapyong, the site of a battle in which NZ, Australian and Canadian artillery troops played a vital part in repelling invading Chinese troops making a last-ditch bid for Seoul.
The April 1951 battle is regarded as one of the hardest-fought battles of the war, in which allied troops inflicted vast losses upon the Chinese army.
Today NZ’s ties to the township include a scholarship offered to local high school children through the local chamber of commerce.
Blair said given that historical tie, any NZ exporter entering the market already has a strong trust endorsement to help pave the way to what is becoming one of the most sophisticated markets in Asia.
“NZ holds a very special place in Korea’s heart,” Blair said.
“It is remarkable, looking back then, they were largely a rural nation and after the war had a high level of diaspora and orphaned children.
“Labour was the only real resource they had, and today they are one of the most advanced economies in Asia, who view NZ as a very desirable place to visit and do business with.”
Trade facts NZ – South Korea
Trade ranking: 5th
Export value $2.78 billion (YE Sept 2022)
Dairy – $344 million
Red meat – $297 million
Wood – $363 million
Fruit – $225 million
Aluminium – $373 million
Biggest movers over past five years
Product Growth year on year