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Mixed fortunes for S. Korean companies in China


08:22, August 21, 2012

JINAN, Shandong, Aug. 20 (Xinhua) -- When Lim Young-chul first came to China from South Korea in 1989, he knew little about his destination. "It was a big country with a large population, and it looked close to South Korea on the map. That was all," Lim recalls.

The then 26-year-old Seoul man made a bold decision, in many of his countrymen's eyes, to set up a factory making speakers in China, even before the two countries established diplomatic ties.

With this week marking the 20th anniversary of diplomatic ties coming into place, Lim's Toptone Electronics Co., Ltd. is the oldest Korean enterprise in China. Still nestled in a small complex of three-story buildings near Qingdao, a coastal city in Shandong province facing South Korea across the sea, the company has grown bigger, though less profitable after being hurt by two financial crises and rising costs.

Spending more than two thirds of his time in China over the past two decades, Lim has seen firsthand how things have changed since the two countries forged the diplomatic relationship in 1992. China's economy has grown very fast. Trade has flourished, China becoming the biggest trading partner of many countries including South Korea.

On the other hand, more Koreans came to capitalize on China's boom. South Korea has been one of the top investors in China despite declining market conditions from the 2006 peak.

In China, Lim and other Korean businesspeople have experienced a string of ups and downs. Two decades on, some of them survive and thrive, some have gone under, some have relocated, some fled back home in ignominy, and some are looking to the future.

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