Reflections on our Korea Trade Mission

From San Diego to Korea: Collaborative partnerships to strengthen global competitiveness

It has been six years since World Trade Center San Diego—which EDC operates on behalf of the Port, the Airport, and the City of San Diego—ran its very first trade mission. Since then, we have taken annual targeted, cross-sector delegations to Canada, the UK, Japan, Germany, and the Netherlands. Led by Mayors and Members of Congress, flanked by Port, Airport, and University leadership, and accompanied by senior executives from our most innovative firms, these trade missions connect San Diego companies large and small to international markets, seek foreign investment that creates new jobs in our region, and tell the San Diego story: one of life-changing innovation and collaboration.

This year’s destination: Korea. And like every other year, San Diego showed up and impressed. Led by Mayor Todd Gloria—and joined this time by SANDAG and County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Nora Vargas—this year’s trade delegation of more than 30 civic, academic, and corporate partners also included peer organizations like Biocom and the Tijuana and Imperial Valley EDCs, as well as companies like Qualcomm, Illumina, Dexcom, ASML, General Dynamics NASSCO, and more.

At a time when more than a trillion dollars of federal investments are aimed at modernizing American infrastructure, enabling a green energy transition, and building domestic capacity in strategic industries like semiconductors and biomanufacturing, Korea is a natural partner for the United States, as evidenced by the deepening collaboration between our two countries. Korea is second only to China in manufacturing intensity, and Korean firms produce almost 25 percent of all EV batteries and almost 60 percent of global memory chips used in phones and laptops.

Why Korea →

There is also perhaps no more complementary partner for an innovation incubator like San Diego than a country that scales innovation more efficiently than anywhere else.

The trade mission opened with a Sunday visit to the residence of the Governor of Gyeonggi-do, Korea’s largest and most dynamic province. Governor Kim and his cabinet hosted us for a roundtable discussion focused on revitalizing the MOU between the state of California and Gyeonggi. We delivered a letter from Governor Newsom and invited a return delegation to visit California in 2024 to continue the conversation on economic cooperation.

This set the stage for a whirlwind four days packed from morning to night with more than 15 briefings, meetings, and events:

  • With the help of Dentons and the U.S. Embassy, we convened representatives from more than 30 of the largest Korean companies for an Invest San Diego Luncheon. We provided an economic overview of investment opportunities throughout the binational mega-region, followed by quick pitches on manufacturing, energy, innovation, and real estate projects from Tijuana, Imperial Valley, and San Diego.
  • We visited the rapidly growing Korean offices of Illumina and Qualcomm, and announced a new partnership between San Diego’s Dexcom and Korean tech giant Kakao.
  • We toured and met with leadership of Samsung Biologics, which in just a few years has grown into the world’s largest contract manufacturer of biologics and is considering the location of a large investment in the United States.
  • We celebrated partnerships between UCSD and SDSU—both developing new state of the art innovation districts—and Seoul National and Yonsei Universities, two of South Korea’s finest.
  • We spent a day in the City of Incheon—a city of millions that has been master planned and developed on land reclaimed from the ocean over the last two decades and is now the innovation hub of the greater Seoul area. Incheon is also home to the international airport, completed in just eight years, as well as the Port, completed in four.

See the FULL agenda

Finally, we closed the trip with a VIP meeting with U.S. Ambassador to Korea Philip Goldberg to discuss the evolving political and economic environment in the region, followed by a reception at the Ambassador’s residence in the former legation district of Seoul. As is the tradition on these trade missions, this reception gave us an opportunity to reconnect with the hundreds of partners we met during the week, cement new friendships (and perhaps most importantly, make sure everyone knows which team to root for when the Padres play the Dodgers in the MLB opener in Seoul next March).

We returned home this week to a region in which the entire urban core is being reimagined—with massive mixed-use projects under construction from the border to the bay; to a country attempting to rebuild its infrastructure and establish new industries to take us into a cleaner, smarter future; and in a post-pandemic world where supply chains and geopolitical alliances are shifting rapidly.

One thing is clear: Our binational region has always been a remarkable place, but at this moment—with San Diego’s innovation ecosystem, Imperial Valley’s clean energy leadership, and Tijuana’s advanced manufacturing prowess—we can compete like never before. Add the right international partnerships like those we are building in Korea and elsewhere, and we have all the necessary pieces to anchor the supply chains of the future: collaboratively, efficiently, and sustainably.

Thank you to our sponsors Qualcomm, Dentons, and Townshend Venture Advisors, as well our partner the U.S. Embassy in South Korea for support on this trade mission.


Nikia Clarke
Nikia Clarke

Senior Vice President; Executive Director, World Trade Center San Diego



Learn about WTCSD’s trade missions


Mayor Todd Gloria to lead South Korea trade mission to strengthen economic ties in Asia


In order to foster vital global economic partnerships, San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria, SANDAG and San Diego County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Nora Vargas, and World Trade Center San Diego (WTCSD), an affiliate of San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation (EDC), are leading a trade delegation to South Korea. During the October 27—November 2 trade mission, business and civic leaders will promote the region’s key industries and seek to establish and strengthen business relationships across biotechnology, semiconductors, clean energy, and infrastructure.

Monumental federal legislation (IIJA, IRA, and CHIPS and Science Act), combined with a generational shift in U.S. industrial strategy aimed at reducing American reliance on China, have positioned South Korea as a natural partner in critical industries. As the federal government continues to incentivize the reshoring and nearshoring of activities aligned to national priorities, leaders from across San Diego, Imperial Valley, and Tijuana are maximizing growth through global connection.                         

“South Korea is a critical global market and a natural partner for San Diego as we share complementary strengths in the life sciences, clean energy, and biotechnology sectors,” said Mayor Todd Gloria. “I’m proud to again join the World Trade Center San Diego on a trade mission to strengthen business relationships and grow quality jobs here at home for San Diegans.”

Home to Asia’s third busiest cargo airport and seventh largest port, South Korea is an emerging hub for global trade and business. As the U.S. strengthens its alliances in East Asia, San Diego finds in South Korea an economy with shared expertise in knowledge-intensive industries, including personalized medicine, semiconductor research and manufacturing, and clean energy. South Korean-based companies directly employ more than 850 San Diegans, predominantly in the technology and manufacturing industries at companies like Samsung and Hyundai. Notably, the U.S. and South Korea hold the #1 and #2 spots, respectively, in global market share of the semiconductor industry. Further, South Korean investment into the U.S. is accelerating, with $18.2 billion in new investment since mid-2020 alone. South Korea is the #13 country investing venture capital into San Diego by deal count, closely behind Germany and Singapore (2014—2020), primarily in the pharmaceuticals and technology industries.


 “The binational mega-region has always been a remarkable place, but at this moment for the global economy, we can compete like never before,” said Nikia Clarke, executive director of World Trade Center San Diego and senior vice president at San Diego Regional EDC. “With San Diego’s innovation ecosystem, Imperial Valley’s clean energy leadership, and Tijuana’s advanced manufacturing prowess, we have all the necessary pieces to anchor the supply chains of the future: collaboratively, efficiently, and sustainably.”

“I am looking forward to showcasing the advancements in clean energy technology, life sciences, and port infrastructure to elevate the best of what our binational region has to offer and identify new partnerships with South Korea to foster innovation and economic growth for both our regions,” said SANDAG and San Diego County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Nora Vargas. “This is an opportunity to increase trade and share new ideas that will help develop lasting solutions to improve our region’s infrastructure, transportation, and economy for the residents of San Diego County.”

Over the four-day trade mission in Seoul, Incheon, and Gyeonggi Province, San Diego will look to build lasting institutional relationships and attract foreign investment in industries that are critical to the future.

Agenda items include:

  • The celebration of a partnership between San Diego-based medtech company Dexcom and South Korean-based tech giant Kakao, which will enable Dexcom to bring its next-generation glucose monitoring capabilities to the South Korean market
  • Opportunities to showcase major regional development projects for foreign investors, including the Seaport Village redevelopment, Lithium Valley in Imperial County, as well as San Diego State University and UC San Diego’s campus expansions
  • Meetings with Port, Airport, and infrastructure partners to better connect our regions through nonstop air and liner service, as well as sharing energy transition innovations
  • Government convenings with the Governor of Gyeonggi and the Mayor of Siheung together with Mayor Todd Gloria and SANDAG and County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Nora Vargas
  • Formal meetings and tours of major employers in both regions, including Qualcomm, Illumina, and Samsung Biologics

Delegates will participate in upwards of 15 meetings over the course of the trade mission, sharing best practices and driving business connectivity across many verticals. The two dozen San Diego delegates include representatives from Illumina, Qualcomm, Viasat, ASML, Cubic, General Dynamics NASSCO, Gafcon, and small businesses including Tioga Research and Nano PharmaSolutions. Also in attendance are delegates from key agencies, universities, and civic organizations such as Port of San Diego, San Diego International Airport, UC San Diego, San Diego State University, San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), Imperial Valley EDC, Tijuana EDC, and others.

The trade mission is organized by World Trade Center San Diego, an affiliate of the San Diego Regional EDC, with assistance and support provided by the U.S. Embassy in South Korea, and sponsorship by Dentons, Townshend Venture Advisors, and Qualcomm.

Follow along with the trade mission: #SDinKR



Thank you to our trade mission sponsors: