CHALAN KANOA Saipan — From laundromats to supermarkets hotels poker arcades mom-and-pop stores video and DVD rentals dive shops and automotive repair shops Korean investors who first came to Saipan in the 1970s today have businesses established everywhere on Saipan.
Glenn H. Manglona economic development officer at the Department of Commerce attributed the Koreans’ prominence in the business to a “determination to succeed.”
“They have the perseverance ” he told the Journal. “I would also say that more Koreans are interested in the CNMI as their business venue and to expand their businesses.”
Data from Manglona’s office showed that Koreans topped the list of investors with approved business permit applications as of Sept. 30. A total of 227 applications were approved with 101 Koreans filing 41 business applications filed by Japanese were approved followed by Chinese nationals at 37.
The bulk — or 154 — of approved business license applications were renewals with only 24 new licenses.
There were 42 approved applications for a 90-day business permit used by investors to explore doing business in the CNMI; four for a “perpetual” permit; and three retiree business permits by people who are 55 years old and above investing $150 000 or more.
Hyoung Keun Oh president of the Korean Business Center told the Journal that Korean participation was actually much higher before the Asian economic crisis with more than 170 business licenses in 1997.
There were approximately 3 000 Koreans living in the CNMI before the Asian economic crisis he said. Today he said that number is 2 000.
Oh said there are more Korean businesses in the CNMI because they get support from fellow businessmen in Korea.
“They start with a small business first. Then they enlarge their business and they acquire funding from other investors in Korea ” he said.
Among such businessmen is Ho Jin Yoon president of Yun’s Corp. which took over operations of Town House Department Store in Chalan Kanoa under a five-year lease agreement on Jan. 13.
Yoon started doing business on Saipan in 1992 with Shoe City store. In 1997 he acquired San Jose Mart a sizeable grocery store in San Jose that operated 24 hours under his management. In 2000 he opened another 24-hour grocery store — 99 cents — in Garapan across the Commonwealth Health Center. Yoon also took over Payless Market in Chalan Kanoa in 2002.
He said the CNMI is attractive to Korean investors because of location.
“There is good transportation of merchandise very fast — by airplane or ship. Also Korean merchandise is cheaper but has good quality. ” he told the Journal in a January interview.
Oh said most Korean owned-businesses in the CNMI are owned by more than one investor.
Oh has been in the consulting business for the past 20 years.
He said the first batch of Korean businessmen arrived on Saipan just as Japanese investors were building hotels during the 1970s. MBJ