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S. Korea to Open Support Center for Kaesong Foreign Investors

FILE - The inter-Korean Kaesong Industrial Complex is seen across the demilitarized zone (DMZ) separating North Korea from South Korea in this picture taken from Dora observatory in Paju, 55 kilometers north of Seoul.

The inter-Korean industrial complex of Kaesong will open a support center for foreign investors in Seoul Friday, according to South Korea’s Ministry of Unification.

Earlier this year, North and South Korea agreed to cooperate on attracting international investment for the industrial zone, which currently has 125 South Korean firms using North Korean labor.

The support center staff will offer consultations for foreign individuals and firms that are interested in investing in Kaesong. The help will be available in several languages and the staff will also work on marketing efforts abroad.

The only foreign company currently working out of the Kaesong complex is a German sales office that sells needles for textile machinery. But the company does not manufacture its products there.

Last week, Russian trade representatives based in South Korea visited the complex to look into investment opportunities.

The ministry announced that about 20 foreign companies have inquired about investing in Kaesong, two of which are showing serious interest.

South Korea’s state-funded KOTRA (Korea Trade Promotion Corporation) surveyed 215 companies on investing in the industrial complex this year.

Thirty-three percent of the respondents answered that affordable, yet skilled labor is the biggest draw for investing in Kaesong. Other advantages cited were relatively cheap rental costs and tax benefits.

An official in Seoul said the biggest hurdle for foreign investors is the restrictions on the Internet and mobile phone usage.

The two Koreas agreed on limited access to the Internet earlier this year, but were not able to implement it due to tensions between the governments.

Jee Abbey Lee contributed to this report, which was produced in collaboration with the VOA Korean service.