Unification Minister Lee Jae-joung Friday told European businessmen active in South Korea that the government would try its best to guarantee stability and predictability at an inter-Korean industrial complex in Kaesong, North Korea.
“Construction of the Kaesong industrial complex has fallen behind schedule but will proceed as planned,’’ Lee said at a luncheon meeting held by the European Union Chamber of Commerce in Korea (EUCCK) at a Seoul hotel.
The speech was given in English. Lee, who gained his master’s degree from the University of Manitoba in Canada and his doctorate from the University of Trinity College in Toronto in 1988, enjoys delivering speeches in English.
The minister said a power grid with the capacity of transmitting 100,000 kilowatts of electricity will be established at the Kaesong site in the first half of this year. Seoul has discussed the construction of a communication center with Pyongyang to expand the communication network there.
“The South Korean government will foster the best environment to make the Kaesong an attractive investment site,’’ he said. “We’re looking forward to seeing many European enterprises join the upcoming expansion of the complex.’’
Lee said the flow of exchanges and cooperation between the two Koreas has continued and even expanded despite the North’s nuclear test on Oct. 9 last year.
“You may wondering why South Korea is focusing on economic cooperation with the North while putting aside many better investment chances,’’ Lee said. “That’s because we believe economic cooperation is a short cut to ensuring peace on the Korean Peninsula.’’
EUCCK plans to carry out its second visit to the site in March. The chamber’s trip in 2005 was the first visit by foreign enterprises.
“Seeing is believing,’’ Lee said. “If you go and see the factories there, you’ll fully understand what I’ve told you today. I promise to assist your visit to the utmost to ensure that you have a memorable and rewarding experience.’’
On Wednesday, Lee, who took office on Dec. 11, made his first visit to the site.
About 11,200 North Korean men and women are working together with 800 South Koreans at the joint inter-Korean industrial complex. The total production in the complex last December alone was worth more than $10 million.
The complex plans to house 300 companies, which would hire as many as 70,000 workers, when power and water supply grids are completed in the first half of this year.
Currently, the EU accounts for more than half of foreign investment in South Korea and is the nation’s second-largest export market after China. It has provided humanitarian assistance worth about $430 million to North Korea since 1995.