Korean Wave, the phrase used to describe the popularisation of Korean pop culture throughout Asia, takes on another meaning in Qingdao, which has enjoyed a strong investment relationship with South Korea since the 1980s. This is due mainly to geographical proximity as the city is only 610km away from South Korean capital Seoul.
Foreign direct investment from South Korea has increased markedly over this period, with Korean projects accounting for 48 per cent of the total. Its investment focus has shifted from labour-intensive projects to diverse schemes involving capital and technology, such as finance, outsourced animation, machinery, electronics and chemicals.
Major Korean brands LG, Samsung, Hyundai and Lotte have a strong presence in the city.
South Korea is also leaving its indelible mark on the make-up of Qingdao, albeit in a less overt manner. It is estimated that more than 100,000 Koreans are living in the city, which can be witnessed by the increasing number of Korean restaurants, special residential units, clinics and a demand for school facilities and links with home.
On the other hand, more than 90 companies from Qingdao have spread into South Korea, with an estimated investment worth 42.8 million yuan (HK$52.3 million).
Ties between Qingdao and South Korea were further strengthened in August when a maritime highway was established between Qingdao and South Korea in a bid to increase logistics efficiency and lower transport costs for freight ships, ultimately allowing entire vehicles to board ships at each end, transforming a trailer into a container truck.