On September 8, 2016, Oklahoma Secretary of State Chris Benge signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with officials from the South Korean province of South Gyeongsang. The signing took place in Changwon, South Korea with a small delegation, including a representative from the Oklahoma Department of Commerce joining Secretary Benge.
The agreement is the result of months of work by both parties and fosters collaboration and trade through the exchange of industry expertise and reciprocal visits by senior officials.
Both regions have a large presence in the aerospace sector. Oklahoma is home to the American Airlines facility in Tulsa, the largest commercial aircraft maintenance repair and overhaul (MRO) depot in the world and the largest U.S. Department of Defense depot at Tinker AFB in Oklahoma City. Gyeongsang is the largest province in South Korea for manufacturing and the South Korean economy is the world’s 11th largest.
“Both Oklahoma and South Gyeongsang are internationally recognized as hubs for the aerospace industry, and leaders in manufacturing and innovation,” said Benge. “This reciprocal agreement is a win-win for both parties and brings with it many potential opportunities for Oklahoma companies to expand sales of products made here to the growing South Korean market.”
The MOU and recent dialog among government leaders serve as a framework for South Korean companies to invest in Oklahoma and create new jobs in the state.
“Oklahoma’s aerospace industry is well established and growing. This MOU not only raises our presence on the global stage, but it also promotes diversification in our economy. Diversity in manufacturing is very important,” said Jennifer Springer, Director of International Trade and Foreign Investment, Oklahoma Department of Commerce.
“The vibrancy of the South Korean economy and the speed at which it has changed is amazing to see,” said Benge. “However, the culture is one that emphasizes perseverance and patience which will require our state to approach this relationship through a long term lens.”
“This agreement allows us to reach out beyond our borders and gain a competitive advantage over other states,” said Rep. Mark McBride, House District 53. “In today’s economy, you have to be forward thinking. That is exactly what we have done here.”
“It is essential that we fight for every opportunity we have to attract more jobs and investment to our state,” said Sen. Ervin Yen, Senate District 40. “While we will not see changes overnight, this partnership paves the way for future opportunities.”
The Oklahoma Department of Commerce expects trade to increase between the two parties due to the MOU and the resulting investment and partnerships. Oklahoma currently enjoys a trade surplus with South Korea with 2015 imports totaling $65 million and exports of more than $79 million. In that same period Aerospace Products & Parts (NAICS 3364) was a fast growing area of trade for both Korea and Oklahoma. Aerospace Products & parts accounted for $4.1 million of Oklahoma’s exports to South Korea, this is a 250% increase from the previous year. Energy, Agriculture and Construction related equipment continue to be top exports from Oklahoma to South Korea.