Realizing the diverse profit potential in the Far East, Israel has stepped up its business presence in Japan and Korea's hi-tech and wine markets over the past month. Israeli companies and venture capitalists recently travelled to Japan to participate in two forums at which the expansion of economic cooperation between the two countries in the hi-tech sector was the primary focus. The conferences took place in Tokyo and Osaka and included a total of 270 representatives from Japanese companies and 10 executives of Israeli hi-tech concerns and investment trusts, including representatives from BSP, Extricom and Explay. Some of Japan's largest companies participated in the Tokyo forum, including Hitachi, Fujitsu, Mitsubishi and Panasonic, according to Amiram Halevi, Israel's economic delegate of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor in Japan. Following the conclusion of the conference, the Israeli representatives held more than 60 individual meetings with their Japanese colleagues interested in future joint-ventures. The second forum participated in by the Israeli delegation was arranged by the director of Japan's Urban Bank, and included more than 60 Japanese investment firms. The director of the bank explained that Japan is currently battling China for hi-tech supremacy in the Far East and as Israel is a world-leader in the technology market, tapping into its resources will allow Japan to compete with, and stay ahead of, China. Recently, Japan also has hosted a slew of wine-tastings at which Israeli wine-makers showcased their products, proving that technology-trading is only one benefit of expanding economic cooperation with Israel. The Japanese wine market has posted robust growth over the last few years, with some of their red wines the most popular in Asia. Some 15 Israeli wineries were invited to Japan by the supermarket-chain Foodex at which they held wine tastings in Tokyo as well as at the residence of Israel's Ambassador to Japan. Representatives from Carmel, Binyamina and Efrat wineries participated in the wine-exhibition, which also included Israel's Tal Gal Cohen, one of the leading wine-tasters in the world, who travelled to Japan as part of the "wine-delegation." Over the course of the Israeli wine-makers' visit, Japanese economic officials convened a meeting that focused on advancing the importing of Israeli wine to Japan, and included the president of wine-importing in Japan and executives of leading wineries from around the country. Israel and Japan did $2.3 billion worth of trade in 2006, according to the Trade Ministry, with Israeli exports rising 2% to $763 million and consisting mostly of medical and optics equipment, electronics and diamonds. Koreans also seem have an affinity for Israeli wine as they recently held wine festivals at which dozens of Israeli wineries displayed more than 44 of their products. Israel's economic attache in Korea, Alon Shlezinger, said Korea's wine market grew 29% in 2006, the largest growth of all Asian wine markets, and sales for 2007 are expected to reach $60m. About a dozen Israeli wine-makers, including Barkan, Castel and Golan Heights Winery, participated in the festivities. Additionally, Shlezinger noted that the two countries did more than $1.58b. worth of trade in 2006, with Israeli exports to Korea growing 43% to $632m.