Consultancy is another string to my Korean bow, but not so far a major one. Loosely, everything I do is consulting – in that people consult me about Korea. But insofar as what I mostly do is write, the term analyst or country analyst would be more exact. 

This isn’t just what I do, but what I’m comfortable with. We all learn our strengths and weaknesses, some sooner than others. My strength is in writing, and in synthesis. By contrast, I have less aptitude or inclination for a related but different and equally valid activity: namely going out into the field to research a specific sector or topic. That is what I view as consultancy proper. If offered it I tend to demur, or suggest people who live in Seoul and so have better networks and local knowledge. Horses for courses.

Again, I should make it clear that the quantitative end of economic or financial analysis is not my forte. But I’m fine on qualitative economic topics, such as sectoral studies. And I am strong on political economy: seeing this as the essential lens through which to view what, if no longer Korea Inc, is still in every sense a mixed economy. Political and security issues are core concerns, including north-south and international relations. I also pay – and would urge – keen attention to social, cultural and demographic factors.

Hence I am very happy to consider any consultancy proposals that correspond to this profile. A fair amount of such work comes my way, almost all of it via intermediaries. While grateful as ever to all of these, the fact remains that I am a free agent as well – so new customers can cut out the middleman!

Here is a partial list of ultimate clients for whom I’ve done consulting in various forms:

  • Multinational companies: BHP, British Aerospace, British Gas, Caltex, Coca-Cola, KLM, Rio Tinto, Unilever
  • Risk assessors, insurers, lawyers etc: Control Risks, Hiscox, Herbert Smith
  • Banks, investment houses, etc: EBRD, Jardine Fleming, UBS, Newton
  • Governments, etc: US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), and others

Both form and content have been quite varied, which I like. Some were meetings: oral presentations or teleconferencing, addressing investor roadshows, and more. But most have revolved around writing reports. A select list of topics includes:

South Korea

  • The viability of particular Korean companies in the wake of the 1997-98 financial crisis
  • Sectoral studies, including healthcare, shipbuilding, energy, and retail
  • Reviews of the ROK’s financial health, restructuring programme, and chaebol reforms
  • Economic nationalism and attitudes to foreign business and FDI.

North Korea

  • Several studies of political / security risk (internal and external), long-run scenarios, etc
  • Evaluation of the progress of economic reform and enforceability of contracts
  • Advice on the real value of the DPRK won on a given date, for a compensation case

Please feel free to consult me about consulting on Korea!