According to Do Kim Lang, Vice Director of the Trade Promotion Agency under the Ministry of Industry and Trade, thanks to the Vietnam-RoK free trade agreement taking effect in December 2015, the RoK has become the third biggest trade partner of Vietnam after China and the US.
In the first two months of 2018, Vietnam earned US$2.79 million from the RoK, up 44% compared to the same time last year.
The Vietnam Embassy in the RoK said Vietnam holds strength in seafood and fruit-vegetable exports to the Asian country, an advantage given the country spends US$33 billion importing farm produce and seafood per year.
The Trade Promotion Agency has organised trips for Vietnamese business delegations in the food industry to visit the RoK to carry out transactions and take part in local exhibitions and trade fairs.
Two major retail firms of the RoK – K-holdings and Coupang – have reportedly sent representatives to Vietnam looking for product supply sources. The firms were interested in importing spices, instant noodles, packed products made of rice, frozen seafood, dried fruits, coffee, chocolate and cashew, among other processed food products.
Kim Dae Youn, director of the food distribution section at Coupang, said apart from Vietnamese fresh tropical fruit, Korean consumers favour the country’s processed farm produce of the country.
Coupang, a leading online shopping company of the RoK, will give a space in its website to introduce Vietnamese food. It aims to sell about 1,800 Vietnamese products online in 2019.
Amid these opportunities, Vietnamese firms have focused on the strict quality standards demanded by the market, particularly with processed food.
Dinh Thi Anh Tuyet, Chairwoman of the Board at the VietED Group, said the Korean market is demanding with high standards, challenging Vietnamese companies.
Small- and medium-sized companies see this as a big challenge, as they lack capital, technologies and human resources.
Le Huy Bay, head of a company processing farm produce, said his start-up is a couple of years old and still faces lots of difficulties.
He said the company is confident of its dried fruit quality but packet design remains unattractive, adding that it has not been able to learn about consumer demand and other market information in the RoK.
He suggested communications agencies offer information on the market and Korean businesses for local companies.