Ground broken for ‘factory apartment’ in N.K. city of Kaesong

From Yonhap

South Korea’s state-run industrial complex operator on Wednesday began work on a manufacturing and residential facility in this North Korean border city that will house 40 labor-intensive companies from the South.

The “factory apartment” will be completed in June 2007 and cost 21.1 billion won (US$22.3 million), the Korea Industrial Complex Corp. (KICOX) said.

The five-story building will have manufacturing areas, living quarters for workers, a training center for North Koreans and other amenities.

When completed, the landmark project is expected to provide 3,100 jobs to both South and North Koreans and annual production will top 22 billion won, it said.

A total of 15 firms have set up operations in the park or plan to move there. North Korea designated Kaesong as a special economic zone in 2002 to make it easier for South Korean companies to do business in the area.

The groundbreaking ceremony was attended by more than 200 officials and businessmen from the two Koreas. The South Korean representatives included Commerce and Industry Minister Chung Sye-kyun, KICOX President Kim Chil-doo, Hyundai Group Chairwoman Hyun Jeong-eun and STX Corp. Chairman Kang Duk-soo.

“The new project promises benefits for all sides, with South Korean companies benefiting from enhanced competitiveness as a result of cheaper manufacturing costs, while the North gets new jobs and chance to acquire important skills,” Chung said.

The minister stressed the South Korean government will do its part so that the ongoing process will continue.

In response, Ju Dong-chan, head of North Korea’s special zone management agency, said the North also wanted to make Kaesong into a world-class industrial complex. He said that despite difficulties, mutual goals of prosperity can be attained if the two Koreas work together.

KICOX said the facility would have considerable advantages over other plants in Kaesong in efficiency and cost savings and help the companies harness cheap but skilled North Korean labor.

“Providing comprehensive support for small companies under a single roof will help cut operational costs to a considerable degree,” a top executive involved in the project said, adding that pooling electricity, water, training and other logistical requirements will cut costs.

Making full use of favorable conditions provided by the new factory is expected to raise the competitiveness of companies that have to compete in the South Korean market with cheap imports from China and Southeast Asia.

The corporation said the 40 resident companies will be selected in the second half of the year and that many companies are likely to vie for factory space.

In addition to the groundbreaking ceremony, the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy brokered the signing of 16 deals between companies operating in Kaesong and South Korean retailers and large manufacturers in an effort to help market their products.

Conglomerates such as Hyundai Mobis Co., South Korea’s top auto parts maker, and tech giant Samsung Electronics Co. agreed to purchasing contracts with companies based in the North Korean city, the ministry said.

“The latest pacts are expected to help boost sales of companies operating in Kaesong,” a ministry official said.


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