Asian Optical Fair Offers the Right Mix

By Nicky Fambios

Located in south-eastern Korea about 80 km from the seacoast and nestled in a basin surrounded by mountains, Daegu is a bustling, modern manufacturing city with over 2.5 million inhabitants. This scenic metropolis was the setting for the 12th annual Daegu International Optics Show (DIOPS), which took place April 17 – 19, 2013.

Over 200 exhibitors displayed their offerings across more than 20,000 square metres at EXCO (Daegu Exhibition and Convention Center), a contemporary building featuring an eye-catching curved glass façade. Nearly a quarter of the exhibitors were foreign businesses, primarily from France, Japan and China.

Not surprising then, that the show attracted 17,000 visitors and upwards of 1,400 international buyers. In an interview with Envision: seeing beyond magazine, DIOPS CEO Jimmy Son notes: “The quality of Korean manufacturing is well-known globally and in high demand. We have experience in every area of optical manufacturing and have been making contact lenses since 1961. The precision of the instruments we manufacture and the technology behind our designs are recognized world-wide. And our frames and sunglasses are lighter than average, therefore more comfortable and more flexible.”

Alternative Eyewear President Paul Storace agrees. “I associate Korean manufacturing with high-tech,” he says. “And the Korean people are hardworking and diligent.”

Storace travels to Korea regularly for business but this was his first time attending DIOPS. “I wanted to put it into context with other international shows I’ve attended,” he explains. His verdict? “It’s not quite at that level yet,” he admits. “With the majority of exhibitors being local distributors and a small group of international players, the fair is primarily geared to the domestic market.”  Storace believes that the current economic climate, as well as recent political tensions in the region, may have impacted the number of foreign businesses in attendance.

However, those factors didn’t deter several guest lecturers who took part in the academic segment of the event. Among them was Envision: seeing beyond Publisher Martine Breton. Also a first-time visitor, Breton was impressed with the organizers’ efficiency and preparedness. “Although they had translated the material I was presenting into Korean for handouts, I was a bit nervous about lecturing to more than 100 opticianry and optometric students who spoke little or no English,” she says. “But I was quickly put at ease when I met the translator who had been assigned to assist me.”

Breton addressed the students about the Canadian vision care industry, starting with a demographic overview of the nation’s populace and a summary of the roles played by the different eyecare professionals (ECPs). She then moved to the realities faced by ECPs in their practices – from services and sales to human resources and training. Says Breton, “The survey of Canadian ECPs we did last year served as the foundation for the presentation. Thanks to that pivotal initiative, I was able to provide an accurate portrait of our industry and answer the students’ many questions.”

Aside from her address, she had the opportunity to visit the exhibitors’ hall, as well as touring a Shinhwa International manufacturing facility. Shinhwa International is a leading Korean eyewear company, the developer of Beta Memory temples and the producer and Asian distributor of several Allison S.p.A collections, including United Colors of Benetton and GF Ferre. Breton notes, “It doesn’t take long to see why Korean manufacturers have such a solid reputation. The employees pay very close attention to every detail. They are meticulous in their processes.”

That’s the message Jimmy Son is hoping to spread around the globe. DIOPS’ busy CEO travels extensively in order to increase awareness of the fair and attract more international exhibitors and buyers. He explains, “There are quite a number of optical industry trade shows around the world and buyers cannot attend all of them. My job is to demonstrate Korea’s advantages and show them the possibilities.”

And it seems to be working. About five years ago, Korean exports to Japan totaled $4.5 million; in 2012, that number rose to $45 million. Son believes that multinationals are increasingly frustrated by certain countries’ manufacturing issues – problems such as substandard product quality and lengthy holidays that delay production. And that is when Son offers his solution: “Everybody is looking for the perfect blend of great designs, advanced technologies, the best price and the quickest delivery. And that is exactly what DIOPS has to offer.”

The next Daegu International Optics Show is scheduled for April 16 – 18, 2014.