Kimberly-Clark considers opening factory in North Korean industrial park

Yonhap
8/22/2007

Kimberly-Clark Corp., one of the world’s biggest makers of health care and sanitary goods, is considering opening a factory in a South Korean-built industrial zone in North Korea, according to the company’s senior executive on Wednesday.

Moon Kook-hyun, chief executive officer of Yuhan-Kimberly Ltd., Kimberly-Clark’s South Korean unit in Seoul, recently told reporters that the company’s “sewing plant” in China may take part in slots of the industrial complex in the North Korean border city of Kaesong.

“First of all, I plan to sign a preliminary contract (to take part in the Kaesong industrial complex) and then will persuade our head office,” Moon said.

Moon and Thomas Falk, chairman of Kimberly-Clark, visited the Kaesong industrial park in February.

Currently, state-run Korea Land Corp. is receiving bids from foreign companies which want to set up factories in Kaesong, located just 70 kilometers north of Seoul.

“If Kimberly-Clark applies to receive land for the Kaesong industrial park, there will be no difficulty,” said an official at Korea Land.

South Korea began building the industrial park in 2003 on a trial basis with the hope of creating a model for eventual reunification of the Korean Peninsula.

Currently, 26 South Korean plants employ about 16,000 North Korean workers who produce garments, kitchenware and a number of other goods.

If the industrial zone becomes fully operational by 2012, more than 350,000 North Korean workers will work there, according to the South’s Unification Ministry.

In a free trade agreement signed last month, the U.S. government said it would recognize the Kaesong-made goods as originating in South Korea.

Moon’s remark also came as optimism has been building over progress in resolving the North’s nuclear standoff.

North Korea has shut down its key nuclear facilities at Yongbyon under a February agreement, which was also signed by South Korea, the U.S., Japan, China and Russia.

It now has to disable the Yongbyon facilities and declare all of its nuclear programs in exchange for 950,000 tons of heavy fuel oil or equivalent aid.

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