Thailand’s soft power, such as its TV series and films, could assist exporters to reach the South Korean market, says Chananya Punnarugsa, Minister Counsellor (Commercial) and Director of Thai Trade Center, Seoul, South Korea.
“The use of soft power, such as Thai series and films, is a great tool to promote Thai products and services, including food and goods, as well as culture,” Punnarugsa says.
Punnarugsa believes that changing Korean consumer demand could present opportunities for Thai companies focused on healthy foods, ready-to-eat meal kits, organic and plant-based meat, high protein or high nutritious food, and food with supplements and vitamins. This is due to high proportion of the elderly in the South Korean population, higher number of vegans in South Korea, and increased awareness of health concerns after the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the Thai Trade Center in Seoul, 16.5% of Korean people are aged 65 and above. This is expected to increase to 43.9% of the total population in 2040.
Due to increased awareness of sustainability, food packaging must be environmentally-friendly. On April 1st, the Korean government stipulated that dine-in restaurants can only use 100% reused materials. This regulation will come into effect on 24 November. Fashion and cosmetic producers also favour recycled or environmentally-friendly packaging, Punnarugsa adds.
The Bio-Circular-Green (BCG) economy was a key component of the Eco-Delta Smart City Project held in Busan since in 2019. Punnarugsa believes this could open up opportunities for Thai exporters, considering Thailand’s focus on the BCG economy. The Korean government is planning to organise a second project in the near future. Thailand and Busan, South Korea’s second-most populous city after Seoul, signed a mini-free trade agreement (mini-FTA) in July 2022 to allow freer exchange between both parties.
The Trade Center implemented many activities in the first half of this year to promote exports to South Korea. These included promoting Thai products in a Living & Design Exhibition, and Food Exhibition. Throughout the year, Thai fruit and food have been promoted via soft power and at Thai Select restaurants. More events, such as participating in a game, digital content exhibition and film market are planned for the second half of the year.
There has also been a series of business creation and networking activities, which have led to orders being placed by the Lotte Group for Thai seafood, chicken meat, pet food, ready-to-eat food, and canned fruits such as pineapple.
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Words by Petchanet Pratruangkrai
Photo courtesy of DITP’s Overseas Office in Seoul, South Korea