ECCK President Christoph Heider’s message to the members and partners is now available. During his speech, he shares the ECCK’s operations and updates on the Korean administration’s support plans during COVID-19 pandemic. We extend our appreciation to all of our ECCK members and friends for their continuous support of the chamber. Full text of the speech: Dear Valued Members and Friend of the ECCK, I am Christoph Heider, President of the European Chamber of Commerce in Korea. Today I would like to share with you about our operations during the past couple of weeks. I think that nobody actually has expected in January that the situation related to COVID-19 will develop into such a massive and disruptive global pandemic. On January 20, the ECCK with its business partners celebrated and welcomed the business year 2020 at our new year’s party. Although some of our members and friends already had some concerns at that time, the majority was still optimistic which will be soon be under control. Now just a few months later we all know and understand that COVID-19 is something, what has never happened to anybody of us during our lifetime. COVID-19 has hit us hard; it has disrupted our business operations massively. It affects to a great extent not only businesses but also how we live our daily lives. The Korean authorities have and still are managing this crisis very well. In fact, Korea has become a role model for the world to emulate in containing the spread of the virus effectively and flatten the curve. The Korean government has been extremely prudent in taking necessary steps for the detection and containment of the virus, as well as maintaining a high degree of transparency with information disclosure. Also, there are countless healthcare workers working long shifts on the frontline, doing testing, caring of coronavirus patients under a very challenging environment. In a letter to Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee, we have expressed – on behalf of our member companies – our deep appreciation to all people involved in managing the crisis but especially to all healthcare professionals working day and night to help all those people in need. All those efforts led to the fact – despite COVID-19 still being here – that we feel safe and are hopeful that soon we can return to our normal business and daily lives. The crisis has brought many changes for everyone. The ECCK, as an entity working closely with Korean authorities, have followed the governmental guidance swiftly and in full. The first thing we felt we had to do on February 24, was to arrange an emergency donation of KRW 10 million to Daegu Metropolitan City, which was most hit hard region in the country. This was extremely important to demonstrate solidarity to Daegu Metropolitan City and to show support to the team of Mayor Young-jin Kwon and Daegu citizens. Actually, we are proud that we were one of the very first foreign business community in Korea to donate to coronavirus relief efforts, which encouraged and led many of our member companies to join the support as well. Companies have donated either products or financial funds to people in need and have changed their way of doing business to minimize the risk of spreading the virus. On February 24, ECCK staff have been asked to work remotely from home; with immediate effect, external meetings have been stopped and substituted by telephone or virtual meetings, all our events due to come have been postponed up to further notice and – where possible such as our information sessions – shifted to Webinars series. With great interest from our valued members, our webinar videos have been watched as of today by more than 5,500 people. Also, on March 9, we held our Annual General Meeting via videoconferencing, where our members joined virtually to listen to our review of Chamber’s performance and accomplishments in 2019 and the outlook for this year. I am pretty proud to see how quickly the ECCK team could move to this kind of new way of working to further serve our members at our best. I ensure you that after having overcome the COVID-19 crisis, the ECCK will be back in an even better shape to serve our members’ interest by combining the best from the pre-COVID-19 time with the best what we newly embraced and practised in recent weeks. Naturally, not everything could be moved to the cloud. Some of our events like the breakfast meetings with Busan Mayor Oh Keo-don or with KFTC Chairperson Joh Sung-wook needed to be postponed to a date when normal business life is back. Here I promise you that we will re-organize those meaningful events as soon as the Korean government announces an easing of the current social distancing guidelines. As said earlier, the COVID-19 crisis from a health perspective was handled very well by the Korean authorities. Today there are 11,111 people who have been infected by the virus but many of them already recovered. New infected cases in recent days were below 50. The number of infection cases is showing signs of slowing down. That’s why we at the ECCK hope that the Korean government will announcing an easing of their social distancing guidelines on April 19. Although, we all still should be careful in our behaviours to ensure not a rebound of infections, we hope that everyone can move back gradually to normal business and private life. Today and the expected message are very crucial ones. It is without any doubt that the support measures including the supplementary budget launched by the Korean administration were important to safeguard business and their operations. The ECCK deeply appreciates and values these emergency support measures to stem business fallouts that are hit from the virus outbreak. This, nevertheless, is and can be only a short-term measure softening the considerable negative impact caused by COVID-19. The sustainable business recovery must come from business themselves; business must run again to vitalize the economy. What is needed now is a plan to return to normal business operations. It is and will be very much important to re-start regular business activities as this is simply needed for many companies to again generate a sufficient cash flow to ensure their business survival and the employment of people. It is also highly needed to set a visible sign “to be back in business” and therewith improve consumer sentiment. Just to be crystal clear: Let me emphasize again: It is of course very much clear that companies can and should only move back to normal business operations gradually by continuing to apply cautious behavioural measures. This crisis no doubt has caused many difficulties. However, we must understand that this is also an opportunity to review and reframe the way we work and business processes. In a letter to Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee we have informed her that the ECCK and its members are more than willing to sit together and to discuss economic and other policy measures focusing more on a mid- and long-term revival of the economy. Starting from February, ECCK has been conducting a pulse survey on the business impact of COVID-19 with our member companies in which we also asked about their recommendations to the Korean government. The survey results including all those recommendations have been shared with the Blue House, Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee and Ombudsman Kim Sung-jin. Additionally, we have provided recommendations focusing more on immediate business survival to Seoul Metropolitan Government but also to central government. In a next step, we will make this topic an agenda item for our committees and working groups to come up with specific industry recommendations. In parallel, we are working now on the review of the feedback what we will receive on or before mid-April on our 180 recommendations included in our White Paper 2019. So, hopefully these recommendations – if accepted and implemented also will help to contribute to the economic recovery. Please allow me to express my special thanks to the Ombudsman Kim Sung-jin and his team at KOTRA who has helped tremendously to get this all organized in an outstanding manner. This can only happen when you a have a good, fruitful and constructive relationship – what we certainly have with the Ombudsman. Lastly, we also hope that agreement on a higher political level can be reached, namely in form of an agreement on modernizing the KOR-EU FTA as well as the KOR-EFTA FTA. Here we can only recommend to move both FTAs to the next level to even further facilitate trade between Europe and Korea. Things are difficult right now, but the future is also uncertain. However, we need to do more than merely troubleshooting to ensure a smooth and fast recovery of the Korean economy including businesses operating in Korea. We need to take a mid to long-term approach to revive the Korean economy. We strongly believe acting quickly and proactively could mitigate the potentially devastating economic effects of the coronavirus outbreak. We need to prepare for tomorrow, starting today. We extend our heartfelt thanks and appreciation to all of our ECCK members and friends for their understanding. These are difficult times, but we will get through them by working together. Thank you for your continuous support of the chamber. Please allow me to close my speech by simple saying: Please stay safe and well…. And I hope to see you soon at one of our events. If the situation allows, hopefully at the All European Network Night which is tentatively scheduled for May 14, 2020… Thank you very much.