A former general for the South Korean Army will help Idaho market products ranging from potatoes to electronic products and real estate in his Pacific Rim country.
The Idaho Department of Commerce has signed a three-year services and representation agreement with General Woo Joo Chang, founder and president of the Korean-American Business Institute.Intervention by the state, meanwhile, has helped lift Korean trade barriers to Idaho french fries.
South Korea, which is third behind Japan and Taiwan in its surplus of currency from trade, is interested in such imports as leather, fruit, timber, frozen french fries and beef, Chang said. Electronic goods, real estate, furniture and automobiles also have appeal as Korean investment opportunities.
Chang, who served for 10 years as president of the construction arm of Hyundai, one of Korea's largest conglomerates and manufacturer of Hyundai cars, has traveled to Idaho at his own expenses and will charge no fee for his services to the state for the first year.
A fee for the second and third years of the agreement is contingent on the amount of Idaho products he can find a market for in Korea, said Georgia Smith, spokeswoman for the Commerce Department.
He said selling Idaho products is a step-by-step process to educate Koreans on the products here.
"First you plant a seed," he said. "That finally produces a big tree."
Although the South Korean government announced it was liberalizing the trade barriers for U.S. frozen potatoes, a last-minute snag prevented the shipment of french fries which make up about 85 percent of the American frozen potato exports, said Kelly Olson, an agriculture marketing specialist for the state Department of Agriculture.
Gov. Cecil Andrus contacted the office of U.S. Trade Representative Clayton Yeutter to clear the roadblocks against the frozen fries. The state was notified on Friday that the Korean government was extending its new trade rules to french fries.
Olson said Idaho shippers could not meet the Korean requirement that the fries pass federal sanitary standards against insects or other contamination, because the U.S. government no longer issues phytosanitary certificates on processed vegetable products.
Idaho officials notified Korea that the state was willing and able to inspect its frozen potato exports and issue state certificates.
Dayton Lee, managing director of the Kye Sung Corp., the largest buyer of pulp wood for paper products in the world, is accompanying General Woo Joo Chang on a tour of Idaho this week.