Amsterdam: the right choice for SK Lubricants

A major component of motor oils, YUBASE has a wide range of automotive and industrial applications. SK Lubricants, which is based in Seoul and has been in operation for more than 45 years, has a history of innovation and growth. It built South Korea’s first oil refinery in the 1950s, expanding its facilities in the 1970s. By the 1990s, it was one of Korea’s largest providers of energy and chemical products. With a solid customer base at home, the company began expanding internationally in 1994, focusing first on North America and followed a decade later by Europe.

The European headquarters opened in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area in June 2008. “We had had a storage facility in Rotterdam and distributed our products from there since 1993. It’s an excellent logistics hub, but as our European business grew we needed to establish an office,” explains Jay Kim, Managing Director, SK Lubricants Europe. A number of locations were considered, including London and Hamburg, but Amsterdam kept topping the list. “Most of our business is in Germany, France and the Benelux, all of which are easily accessible from Amsterdam,” he says. “In addition, the proximity of Schiphol Airport and the fast public transport links make it easy for our customers to reach us.”

The ability to staff the new office was another deciding factor. “Most of our colleagues speak multiple languages. That’s very common in the Netherlands, so sourcing the talent we need is straightforward. These language skills also make Amsterdam an attractive place to live. Everyone speaks English – from the office to the supermarket – so there’s no need to learn Dutch.” Although Kim has since taught himself what he modestly calls “survival Dutch”, he says the lack of a communication barrier helped both him and his family to settle in quickly.

He also cites the ongoing assistance from amsterdam inbusiness. “Having been here for almost eight years, SK Lubricants is well established in Amsterdam, but we still have regular contact with amsterdam inbusiness. We can ask them any questions, from how to arrange an identity card to finding an office, and there is always immediate support. That’s quite different from other countries. In fact, when we were looking to move to larger premises a few years ago, we struggled to find anything suitable. We approached amsterdam inbusiness and within a week they had found us this location. That’s kind of magic.”

The Amsterdam office now has 14 employees and last year the company, in a joint venture with Repsol, opened a production plant in Spain. “We previously had to import our products from South Korea. With the Spanish plant, we have been able to reduce imports and transport costs for our business and increase supply security for our customers. Amsterdam will remain our European headquarters, but Spain is a good base from which to access the Mediterranean countries, giving us further opportunities to expand.”