By Kim Tae-gyu
THE KOREAN TIMES
Agribrand Purina Korea, the subsidiary here of the world’s primary feed mill Cargill, has failed to set up a research and development (R&D) center due to regulations despite its brisk research activities.
The failure financially weighed on Purina, which had a four-decade operation in Korea, because it could not savor a slew of favorable benefits given only to research centers by the government.
Purina did not know how to address the hitch but proactive officials at KOTRA, a state-backed trade and investment promoting agency, did know how to deal with it and provided a helping hand.
After learning of Purina’s quagmire during a meeting with its executive in 2003, an official at the Investment Aftercare Team at KOTRA stepped in to help the firm even without its request.
“Feed mills typically carry out research vehemently because they have to develop forage best for each country depending on its weather and soil conditions,” said Yoo Young-yeol, a senior consultant at the team.
“Subsequently, Purina had strong commitments to research but the outfit could not make an R&D center because researchers of Purina were scattered to its distant factories,” Yoo said.
In 2003, Korea’s relevant law mandated researchers to stay in the same place as the requirements of an R&D center and Purina could not meet the demands due to feed mills’ business characteristics _ research fellows have to work in the field.
“In collaboration with the Ministry of Science and Technology, we revised the rules so Purina could have its own R&D lab in 2004 to gain many benefits the firm deserves,” Yoo said.
“That is the role of the Investment Aftercare Team -- searching for difficulties with foreign companies here and finding out solutions to them,” he added.
Founded in 1999, the Investment Aftercare Team has conducted a flurry of successful measures and the Purina case is just part of its history.
Its seven dedicated officials, called home doctors, constantly visit foreign investment companies in order to provide the best environment for them to do business in Korea.
“Sometimes, foreign companies ask for revision or scrapping of some unfavorable regulations on their own. But sometimes they do not recognize what the problems are,” Yoo said.
“We are pinpointing the problems through seamless on-spot inspections. We will continue such efforts afterwards. That is what we are paid for,” he continued.