A New Way to Shop: Coupang’s Guide to E-Commerce

Global Dialogue Breakfast held on July 15, 2021. Left to Right: Mr. Alex Wong, Head of Global Policy at Coupang, Mr. Scott Snyder, Senior Fellow for Korean Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, Ambassador Tamaki Tsukada, Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy of Japan, Ambassador Nominee to Vietnam Marc Knapper, U.S. Department of State, Mr. Bom Kim, CEO and Founder of Coupang, Ms. Wendy Cutler, Vice President and Managing Director of the Asia Society Policy Institute, Hon. Fred Hochberg, Former Chairman of the Export-Import Bank and Meridian Trustee. Ms. Jean Lee, Director of Asia Policy at the Wilson Center, Ambassador Marcia Bernicat, Acting Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment, Ambassador Stuart Holliday, CEO of Meridian International Center, Ambassador Ashok Mirpuri, Embassy of Singapore. Photo By Stephen Bobb.

While the e-commerce giant Amazon became ubiquitous for Americans shopping during the COVID-19 pandemic, Coupang dominated the South Korean marketplace during this time by becoming the country’s largest online retailer. Founded in 2010 by Mr. Bom Kim, Coupang took the traditional model of online shopping (i.e., warehouses full of various products to be distributed 2-3 days later) and expanded it by integrating the online shopping experience and innovating their supply chains. Coupang continues to grow in popularity as they expand into other Asian markets with the promise of a speedy delivery, oftentimes, delivering products and groceries within a few hours.

On July 15, 2021, Meridian brought together several U.S. government officials, diplomats, and Asia experts from think tanks for a breakfast with Mr. Bom Kim, Korean American businessman, Founder, and CEO of Coupang, to discuss the challenges and opportunities of digital trade, efficient e-commerce, and creating equitable workplaces in the rising Asian economies.

Meridian’s first installment of our Global Dialogue Series since the COVID-19 pandemic featured distinguished guests including Ambassador Marcia Bernicat, Acting Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment, Ms. Wendy Cutler, Vice President and Managing Director of the Asia Society Policy Institute, Hon. Fred Hochberg, Former Chairman of the Export-Import Bank and Meridian Trustee, Ambassador Nominee to Vietnam Marc Knapper, U.S. Department of State, Ms. Jean Lee, Director of Asia Policy at the Wilson Center, Ambassador Ashok Mirpuri, Embassy of Singapore, Mr. Scott Snyder, Senior Fellow for Korean Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, Ambassador Tamaki Tsukada, Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy of Japan, and Mr. Alex Wong, Head of Global Policy at Coupang. Meridian’s Global Dialogue Series features a “salon style” and off-the-record conversation on vital policy challenges facing the private sector and world leaders.

Meridian President and CEO Ambassador Stuart Holliday facilitated an active dialogue on the trade-offs that this burgeoning industry of online retailers have to face in order to streamline their production and equitably meet the needs of their customers. Coupang, for example, has almost eliminated the use of cardboard boxes in their delivery, instead, using eco-friendly parcels which are then later picked up and reused for another delivery. This is just one example of which Mr. Kim says Coupang has cornered the market and becoming the largest e-commerce platform in South Korea and expanding into Japan and Taiwan.

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Project summary

A New Way to Shop: Coupang’s Guide to E-Commerce | July 2021
Number of Attendees: 11
Regions: East Asia and Pacific
Countries: South Korea, Japan, Singapore
Impact Areas: Business and Trade, Entrepreneurship
Program Areas: Convening
Partners: Private Sector