According to the AFP:
A South Korean company said Tuesday it is planning a joint-venture factory in a free-trade zone in northeastern North Korea, the first such investment by Seoul in the faltering project.
Food processor Merry Co said Pyongyang last month approved its partnership with state-run Korea Gaeson General Trading Corp in the Rason zone near the North’s border with China and Russia.
“We’re going to have a first joint venture between the two Koreas in Rason,” Merry president Chung Han-Gi told AFP.
The North this month upgraded the status of the zone in an attempt to invigorate anaemic foreign investment there.
Chung said his company would invest 60 percent of the 7.5 million dollar cost of the new plant while its North Korean partner would put in 40 percent.
He said he would this week ask the South’s unification ministry, which must authorise all cross-border contacts, to approve the joint venture.
The communist state designated the Rajin-Sonbong Economic Special Zone — later renamed Rason — in 1991, its first such project. But little foreign investment materialised and senior officials who headed the project were reportedly sacked.
In recent years the North has begun trying to revive it, signing an accord with Russia to rebuild railways and the port there. China has also been exploring investment opportunities in the city.
The North’s leader Kim Jong-Il paid his first visit to the zone last month and state media said later that parliament has designated Rason as a municipality to upgrade its status.
South and North Korea have a joint-venture industrial estate at Kaesong near their border. Its operations have often been hit by political tensions, but the two sides were to start talks Tuesday on ways to develop it.
Chung said his firm’s joint venture at Rason, which would have some 200 North Korean employees, plans to produce canned and processed food including tuna for exports.
Merry, which also has a factory in Shanghai, will send Chinese engineers to Rason next month to install production facilities.
The Choson Ilbo adds some interesting details:
This is the first time that Pyongyang has allowed for direct business collaboration, set to take place between North Korea’s Gaeson General Company and the South’s Chilbosan Merry Joint Venture.
The firms are slated to split investment 60/40 and will work together to process and export canned marine and agricultural products starting in March.
UPDATE 1: As reader Gag Halfron points out, this is not the first DPRK-RoK joint Venture. Remember Pyonghwa Motors and Pyongyang’s fried chicken restaurant?
UPDATE 2: In the comments, Werner notes the following: http://www1.korea-np.co.jp/pk/149th_issue/2000101405.htm
Read the full articles below:
N.Korea OKs joint venture with South in trade zone
First Inter-Korean Joint Venture to Be Established