DPRK welcomes foreign money

From the BBC:

North Korea has announced that it will open up its companies to more foreign investment, as part of a new policy to liberalise its economy.

The Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (Kotra) said that it would now allow foreign investors to take stakes in Korean companies of more than 50%.

“In the case of joint ventures, foreign companies could take only up to 50% of stake in the past, but now there is no problem if their stake goes above the level,” Kotra said, quoting North Korea’s vice trade minister Kim Yong-sul.

The country is hoping that the rule change will encourage Japanese and South Korean businesses to take a greater stake in the North Korean economy.

Economic sea-change

In the past few months, North Korea has devalued its currency and abolished a convertible version of the won used in transactions with foreigners.

The country has also raised prices and wages, and placed more emphasis upon companies being profitable.

Changes to the foreign ownership rules were explained at a conference in Tokyo, which was attended by about 50 Japanese businessmen.

“The measure is an effort by Pyongyang to expand trade and business with other countries,” Kim Sang-shik, a Kotra official, said.

He added that North Korea had attracted $120m (£76.7m) of foreign investment to a special trade zone at the end of 2000 – more recent figures were unavailable.

Socialist profits

The new economic policies aim to wean factories and companies in North Korea off state subsidies and become self-sustained.

North Korea’s planned economy has been in place since the communist state came into being in 1947.

People in the country have been afflicted by droughts and numerous natural disasters, acerbated by an inefficient economy.

The economy grew by 3.7% in 2001, after a 1.4% expansion the previous year, according to estimates from the Bank of Korea – the South Korean central bank.

Following the ownership rule change, Kotra said it expected more South Korean companies to take stakes in companies across the border.

Trade between the two neighbouring countries increased by 8.9% year-on-year to $215m in the first half of this year.

Plans to build railway and road links between the two Koreas were agreed last month.


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