28.-30. ágúst 1996
Á FUNDI MEÐ KÓREÖNSKUM FYRIRTÆKJUM Í SEOUL/PUSAN
SPEECH BY H.E. MR. HALLDÓR ÁSGRÍMSSON, MINISTER FOR FOREIGN
AFFAIRS AND EXTERNAL TRADE OF ICELAND,
AT A MEETING OF KOREAN COMPANIES IN SEOUL/PUSAN
Ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to thank you for this opportunity to address the Korean business community at
this meeting in Seoul/Pusan and would like to start by introducing the Icelandic delegation:
Mr. Hjálmar W. Hannesson the Ambassador of Iceland to Korea
Mr. Stefán Lárus Stefánsson, Minister Counsellor, Trade Dept., Ministry for Foreign Affairs
Mr. Atli Freyr Guðmundsson, Director, Ministry of Industry and Commerce
From the Trade Council of Iceland Mr. Jón Ásbergsson, Managing Director and
Mr. Thorgeir Pálsson, Director of the Fisheries Department
Mr. Ingi G. Ingason, Director of the Invest in Iceland Bureau
Mr. Björn Ingi Stefánsson, Technological Institute of Iceland
Mr. Gísli Gudmundsson, Consul General of Korea in Iceland, and Director General of the
importing firm B and L
Mr. HAI HYUNG CHO, Consul General of Iceland in Korea.
Turning to the private sector delegation I would first like to introduce:
Mr. Jón Ásbjörnsson, the President of the Association of Icelandic Importers, Exporters and
Mr. Jón Magnússon, Icelandic Freezing Plants Corporation which is the largest exporter of
seafood products from Iceland
Mr. Björn Á. Pétursson from Iceland Seafood International, which is the second largest
exporter of seafood products from Iceland
Mr. Gudmundur Gunnarsson from the company Hampiðjan Limited, a producer of bottom
and midwater trawls
Mr. Lárus Ásgeirsson from Marel Limited which is a producer of weighing and vision
systems for fish, poultry, and the red meat industry
Mr. Thorstein Sigurðsson from Borgarplast Limited, a manufacturer of insulated tubs for the
Mr. Holberg Másson and Mr. Thórarinn Stefánsson from Netverk Limited, a software
company specialising in messaging systems
Mr. H. Tómas Ragnarsson of Traffic Software, developer of fax management software
Mr. Ásgeir Ásgeirsson of Valeik Limited, exporter of salted and dried fish
Mr. Thórir Matthíasson from Saeplast Limited, a manufacturer of insulated plastic tubs for the
Mr. Sigurdur Thórdarson from Edalvörur Limited, importer of Korean Ginseng to
Mr. Örn Erlingsson from Sólbakki/Saltver, vessel owner and fish processor.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Iceland is slightly larger than Korea, about 103 thousand square kilometers, situated in the
North-Atlantic and the second largest island in Europe. Comparing our population size is a
totally different matter altogether since Iceland's population is about 265 thousand people
making Iceland the most sparsely populated country in Europe. The present average density
is 2.5 inhabitants per square kilometre.
Both Iceland and Korea have been among the leading countries in the fisheries sector with
Korea catching about 3.0 million tons of fish and Iceland catching around 2.0 million tons of
A high standard of living has been achieved in the post-war period, with per capita Gross
Domestic Product (GDP) standing at about US $22.500. The fishing industry, including both
fisheries and fish-processing, has been the driving force behind this development. It presently
provides for around 20 per cent of GDP, occupies around 11 per cent of the work force,
and generated 76 per cent of merchandise exports in 1994.
The forecast level for economic growth is 4.5 per cent for 1996. Iceland has managed to
maintain a low inflation rate the last few years, about 1-2 per cent a year, and a very stable
Iceland has abundant energy resources. Only a small fraction of these vast hydro electric and
geothermal resources has been exploited so far. The potential for large scale development of
power-intensive industry is therefore substantial. Industrial expansion has to a considerable
extent relied on these energy resources and their attractiveness for power-intensive industries,
aided by tariff-free access to the European market.
After fishing and fish processing, manufacturing has become the second most important
sector in the economy. It contributes about 13 per cent of GDP. There has been a rapid
growth of various high-technology industries in recent years, particularly in the production of
equipment and advanced machinery for fishing and fish processing.
The export of software has grown rapidly in the last years and Icelandic computer specialists
have been gaining international recognition. Around 4% of Iceland's GDP comes from the
computer sector, which is similar to the European Union. This figure is expected to double in
the next decade so the prospects are good for the Icelandic software industry .
Iceland is highly dependant on foreign trade. The relatively large share of foreign trade is due
to the high productivity of the main export industry, fisheries. Most manufactured goods, raw
materials, grains and fuel have to be imported. Imports have amounted to about 40 per cent
of GNP. Because of the importance of foreign trade, a liberal trade policy is naturally in
Iceland became a Contracting Party to the GATT in 1968 and a founding member of World
Trade Organization (WTO) as well as Organization on Economic Cooperation and
Development (OECD). Iceland is not a member of the European Union (EU) but has since
1994 had an agreement with the EU on the free flow of goods, services, capital and people.
Iceland is a member of NATO and has since 1951 had a bilateral defence agreement and
very close ties with the United States.
Iceland has for many years had very close links with the other Nordic countries, Norway,
Sweden, Denmark and Finland. Nordic cooperation is extensive and far-reaching in various
fields, including trade and economy. A passport union, a common labour market and
harmonization of various legislation are but a few examples.
Although close commercial cooperation with the European Union and United States has been
prosperous, Iceland has been rapidly developing its trade in Asia with increased emphasis on
I would now like to turn to the bilateral situation between Iceland and Korea.
The relations between Iceland and Korea are fairly recent. It was not until 1962 that our
countries established diplomatic relations. The first Korean honorary consul in Iceland was
appointed in 1970 and Iceland was fortunate to enlist the services of our current honorary
consul general in 1977. During these past thirty-four years since diplomatic relations were
begun contacts between officials of both countries have been quite frequent.
The bilateral trade between Iceland and Korea has steadily been increasing over the past four
years. This is a very positive development. The Icelandic business community is convinced
that there is great potential in increasing trade relations with Korea. That is in evidence here
today because this is the biggest trade delegation that has participated in a official visit of an
Icelandic Cabinet Minister. In years past it was the custom when visiting far away countries to
mention in official speeches the distance between the countries in question. In today's modern
world distance has become relative due to innovations in computer software technology,
communications and transport. Distance is therefore not the same obstacle in business as
The Icelandic companies represented here today cover most of the areas where Icelandic
commerce and know-how have excelled. I am especially referring to fisheries, fishing gear
and technology as well as marketing of fisheries products. Companies leading in the field of
computer software technology are also represented here. These companies have made their
presence felt in this highly competitive market all over the world. Icelandic importers of
Korean goods have been quite successful in their marketing, by any standards, which is
reflected in our negative balance of trade. One can say that they have been too successful.
In conclusion, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am convinced that this visit will mark the beginning of increased and flourishing trade
between our countries.