DPRK emulates China’s FDI legal framework

Evan Ramsatad writes in the Wall Street Journal’s Korea Real Time Blog:

Choson Exchange, which has previously concentrated on academic avenues into North Korea, this week published a report on the legal framework North Korea has developed for accepting foreign direct investment.

It resembles China’s structure to a large degree, including requiring that outsiders work with a local business to make an investment and are subject to review by a special commission and potentially other government bodies.

The 14-page report is based chiefly on research from a recent trip to Pyongyang. There, they listened to government officials explain the structure they’ve set up and the places they’d most like to see be developed by foreign investors.

At the top of the list: Rason, the port city in the northeast part of the country that Russia has built a rail line to and China is building a four-lane highway to. Already, Switzerland has reportedly invested in a berth at the city’s port and Norway and other countries helped develop a wind energy project just outside the city.

The report’s conclusion is that North Korea’s foreign investment laws “provide a logical if bureaucratic framework” for foreigners to approach the country. But Choson Exchange said a big ambiguity remains: will North Korea be fair?

To get investor confidence, the group said North Korea “will need to establish a practice of applying and enforcing its laws fairly and consistently, even where the result is not always in the best interest of the DPRK or its state-owned entities.”

The full report published by Choson Exchange can be found on their web page here (PDF).  According to the summary:

In June, Choson Exchange took a fact-finding and training needs-mapping trip to Pyongyang. The main impetus for the trip was to get a better understanding of the legal structure that the DPRK has in place to govern inbound foreign investment. We found a legal structure that draws heavily on China’s experiences. Our full findings are in this report.

Key points include:

– Investment projects categorized into encouraged, permitted, restricted and prohibited categories.

– As in China, foreign enterprises require a local business vehicle to conduct FDI; the primary business vehicles available in the DPRK are limited liability corporate bodies and representative offices.

– The JVIC (Joint Venture and Investment Commission) and other government bodies (if applicable) will review the business scope, capitalization and other aspects of a proposed corporate body prior to incorporation.

– Investment in Rason will be particularly encouraged. According to JVIC, corporate bodies established in Rason can also apply to do business elsewhere in the DPRK.

– The operations and governance of DPRK corporate bodies are set out in law, including scope of activities, investment scale, limited liability, location, management, staffing and repatriation of profits.

– Domestic and Foreign arbitration is the primary mechanism for resolving commercial disputes between DPRK and foreign parties.

– Some ambiguities remain. Will laws be enforced uniformly and consistently?


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