While debt-ridden developed nations like the U.S. are struggling to devise economic stimulus programs that bring down high unemployment rates without adding to their budget deficits, South Korea has come up with a way tosupport small businesses. Trying to get more bang for the government buck, the country’s small business administration, the SMBA, is planning to partially subsidize membership fees for domestic companies that join international e-commerce websites.
Samsung Electronics may be the most visible symbol of South Korea’s export prowess, but 99 percent of the country’scompanies are small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs)—and as a group they account for less than a third of South Korea’s total export volume. The SMBA wants to turn more of them into international traders by contributing up to 4 million won ($3,396) each when they join B2B marketplaces that match them with foreign buyers. “Promoting exports for small businesses is a national task for every country,” said SMBA Administrator Dong-Sun Kim. “It creates synergy by positively impacting employment as well as exports.”
The SMBA also has turned to Alibaba.com to help get the message out to SMEs, many of whom are unaware of the possibilities of e-commerce despite South Korea’s rep for having a high I.T. IQ. During the first day of AliFest, Alibaba and the SMBA signed a memorandum of understanding calling for them tocollaborate on education programs to teach industry best practices to South Koreans. Alibaba will also work with the SMBA and other Korean agencies to expand an existing online project called the “Export to China Korean Channel,” which seeks to make Korean-made clothing and lifestyle goods available to more Chinese via the Internet (China already accounts for nearly 25% of South Korea’s exports).