The most common means of representation include: 1) appointing a registered commissioned agent (more commonly known as an "offer agent" in Korea) on an exclusive or non-exclusive basis, 2) naming a registered trading company as an agent, or 3) establishing a branch sales office managed by home office personnel with Korean staff.
Any traders registered with the Korea International Trade Association (KITA) can import goods in their own names. Appointing a registered trading company (rather than an "offer agent") as an agent has its advantages because these agents can handle all of the importing paperwork and imports for their own account. Registered trading companies tend to be larger firms and they split their businesses between exports and imports. However, these larger firms may be less attentive to building the U.S. supplier's business, placing a higher emphasis on diversifying their portfolio of products from different countries. Similarly, while the larger general trading companies may be influential and well known in the market, they also may not devote as much attention to a single product as smaller firms do.
To find a local representative, a good place to begin with is a fee-based service called the International Partner Search (IPS) through the U.S. Export Assistance Centers (USEAC) located throughout the U.S. and Commercial Service Korea (CS Korea). For a modest fee, CS Korea's industry specialists will tap into their well-established network of industry contacts and trade associations. The client will soon receive an annotated list of three to five potential, qualified representatives. The next step would be to plan a visit to Korea, perhaps calling upon CS Korea to arrange market briefings, a meeting schedule, and an interpreter/secretary under another fee-based service called the Korea Gold Key (KGK).
Another good contact is the Korea Importers Association (KOIMA), a well-established, private trade association...