Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
The Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC, also known as Gaeseong Industrial Complex) has recently celebrated its tenth anniversary of operation. Despite years of twists and turns, most of the listed South Korean firms with operations at the KIC generally showed a higher than average annual growth rate of 10 percent.
According to the financial investment industry and the Corporate Association of Gaeseong (Kaesong) Industrial Complex (CAGIC), the ten companies in the KIC recorded average sales and operating profits of 116.84 percent and 143.23 percent from 2005 to 2013. This translates into a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.16 percent in terms of sales, and 11.75 percent in operating profit.
Taekwang Industry, Korea Electric Terminal, Cuckoo Electronics, Jahwa Electronics, and Romanson were among five companies that showed highest sales, operating profits, and net profits that recorded high annual growth rate of more than double digits. Excluding Cuckoo Electronics, which was listed with the KIC from last year, all nine companies (out of ten) reached the average of 485.91 percent in terms of market capitalization from 2005 to 2014 and averaged yearly increase of 19.34 percent. In addition, Cuckoo Electronics emerged as a star company with a market capitalization of 1.7 trillion KRW due to its high-speed growth, recording annual average sales of 12.89 percent since 2005 and an operating profit of 22.4 percent.
South Korean companies entered the KIC from 2004, began operations, and saw their first production in December 2004. The companies in the KIC suffer whenever tensions are high between North and South Korea, but they were hit hardest in 2013 when North Korea unilaterally shut down the complex for five months. However, the financial investment industry positively evaluates the KIC to have significant advantage such as low labor costs.
Although this strong growth cannot be seen entirely as the ‘KIC effect’, the competitiveness of the KIC seems to have contributed to some extent to these earnings. In fact, “Hi Korea Unification Renaissance Stock Fund,” launched by local asset manager Hi Asset Management Co., delivered a return of 9.79 percent during the eight-month period since its introduction in May.
The low cost of labor of North Korean workers in the KIC is considered as an advantage for the competitiveness of companies. This is leading to higher earning and consequently a rise in their share prices.