Details on the Rason SEZ (version 2.0) emerging

China has reportedly agreed to provide electricity to the Rason special economic zone, and the minimum wage investors can expect to pay the North Korean government to employ North Korean citizens qill be approximately US$80.

According to the Korea Times:

China has agreed to provide electricity to a special economic zone in North Korea’s northeast, a source said Tuesday.

The agreement to provide power to the Rason economic zone was signed between Jang Song-thaek, vice chairman of the North’s powerful National Defense Commission, and China’s Commerce Minister Chen Deming, during an economic meeting on June 8, the source said.

The source cited Chinese officials familiar with the project.

The project calls for laying high-voltage power distribution lines between the Chinese border city of Hunchun and the North’s city of Rajin as well as building a thermal power plant in Rason, the source said.

Construction for the power lines is likely to begin soon while the two sides are in talks to work out details for the envisioned power plant, the source said.

“Power is an important infrastructure in developing the Rason special economic zone,” said Cho Bong Hyun, an expert at the Seoul-based IBK Economic Research Institute. “China’s agreement to provide power increases the chances of the zone’s success.”

The North designated Rason as a special economic zone in 1991 and has since striven to develop it into a regional transportation hub, though no major progress has been made. (Yonhap)

According to Yonhap:

The minimum monthly wage for workers at a North Korean special economic zone has been set at US$80, a source familiar with the reclusive state said Thursday, a small enough sum that could attract Chinese firms to invest there.

North Korea designated Rason as a special economic zone in 1991 with the aim of developing it into a regional transportation hub. Amid few signs of progress, the country broke ground in June on a joint project to develop it into an economic and trade zone with China. The northeastern port city borders both China and Russia.

“According to a booklet I obtained on the tax policy of the Rason economic and trade zone, the minimum monthly wage for workers is $80,” said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Under a North Korean law for the Rason economic zone, revised in January last year, the minimum monthly wage for local employees at foreign firms is set jointly by the employer and the municipal authorities.

The amount is higher than the $63.814 recently set as the minimum wage for North Korean workers at the inter-Korean industrial park in Kaesong, the North’s western city bordering South Korea, but less than the average salary of Chinese workers. According to the South’s state-run Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA), Chinese workers are paid a minimum of $167 per month.

Experts say this wage gap could attract Chinese investors to Rason, as they have already started showing signs of relocating operations to Vietnam, Indonesia and other countries with cheaper labor than China.

The booklet also contains details of Rason’s tax policy, including a five-year property tax exemption for buildings purchased through private funds and a corporate income tax rate of up to 14 percent, according to the source.

“The booklet was made by Rason’s tax bureau in July-August to introduce foreigners to its tax policy,” the source said.

And according to the Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES):

Hwang also elaborated on the eight preferential policies providing special tax benefits to foreign investors. He asserted, “The government of North Korea will guarantee the investment of the foreign investors by not nationalizing or demanding requisitions. For inevitable cases where such demands occur, proper compensation will be provided.”

The income tax is also at 14 percent, which is 11 percent lower than other areas in North Korea. For companies with business plans over ten years, foreign capital companies will receive three years of tax-free benefit starting from the profit earning year and two years thereon after will receive 50 percent tax-free benefits. According to Hwang, over 100 foreign companies and offices are operating businesses currently in the special economic zone.

Read the full stories here:
China agrees to provide power to NK’s Rason economic zone
Korea Times
2011-9-13

Minimum wage at N. Korean special economic zone set at US$80: source
Yonhap
2011-9-8

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