Representatives from North Korea attended a conference in the Chinese port city of Dalian on Saturday, in an attempt to attract foreign investment to the DPRK, South Korea’s JoongAng Ilbo reported on Monday.
The six member DPRK delegation was led by Oh Eung Gil, President of the Wonsan District Development General Corporation, who gave a presentation indicating that North Korea was open for business.
““The door is wide open. Come on in any time,” Oh was reported to have said at the conference.
The Joongang Ilbo reported the event took place at the Shangri-La Hotel in Dalian and was attended by over 200 businessmen and potential investors, including numerous South Koreans.
During his presentation Oh tried to assuage potential investors wary of committing to North Korea on account of its occasionally volatile political environment.
High on the list of investor fears is concern over the North Korean government’s past record of seizing foreign owned assets in the DPRK, though Oh reportedly addressed this issue head on.
“With Article 19 of the Foreign Investment Act, we promise that the assets of foreign investors and their companies won’t be nationalized. If they are nationalized for an unavoidable reason, then we will make compensation for all costs,” Oh said.
Oh also made special mention of the Kumgang tourism project, a joint venture between North and South Korea which was in large part bankrolled by South Korean conglomerate Hyundai Asan.
In 2010, North Korean authorities froze the company’s assets in the area and expelled South Korean workers.
The move was preceded by the South Korean government suspending the project after the 2008 shooting of 53 year old South Korean national Park Wang Ja by a DPRK guard.
“We prepared all the conditions to develop Mount Kumgang and waited for the South to change its attitude … we are trying to attract foreign investors. We have no intention to exclude the South,” Oh continued.
Oh added that North Korea had been streamlining its legislation with the intention of facilitating foreign investment. Foreign companies will not, for example pay tax on infrastructure investments and duties on in the DPRK’s special economic zones will be 14 percent.
One specialist was uncertain, however, that North Korea’s measures are enough to tempt nervous investors into opening their wallets.
“Sure, they’re ‘wide open’, as the official states, but there are still so many impediments to a smooth investment experience and this conference doesn’t change that … the investment environment remains challenging,” Andray Abrahamian, Executive Director at Chosun Exchange told NK News.
The North Korean message however is in line with recent moves by the DPRK which suggest it is looking to bring in foreign money. In June the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported numerous initiatives designed to attract more visitors to newly designated tourism zones in Wonsan and the surrounding area.
Also in November 2013 a group from Mongolian investment bank BD Sec visited the DPRK’s Rason special economic zone. The group claimed in a subsequent report that the DPRK was “open for business”.
Featured image: MR+G, Creative Commons
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