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N. Korea seeks investment from overseas Koreans

North Korea has been revving up efforts to attract investment from overseas Koreans amid difficulties in inviting foreigners to the sanctions-hit country, media reports said Thursday.

The communist country has been under tightened international sanctions for its third nuclear test in February last year, which imposed penalties on the North's trade, banking and travel.

"We are to focus more on the projects that aim to create circumstances where overseas Koreans can successfully make economic transactions (in North Korea)," said Pak Kyong-jin, who leads the Economic Cooperation Office for Overseas Koreans based in Pyongyang.

He made the comment in an interview with a monthly magazine titled "Joguk," or "Homeland," published by the pro-Pyongyang Korea General Association of Korean Residents in Japan.

"We will try to complete the drawing up of legal and instrumental measures to protect overseas Koreans' interests and give them special treatment," he said, adding such projects have been "making good results."

The office was established last year as part of Pyongyang's efforts to facilitate investments by Koreans living abroad, with its services getting into full swing in January.

The reclusive communist country has been redoubling efforts to attract investment from overseas in line with its leader's policy platform of putting a greater focus on its economy, which is critical for achieving sustainable growth so as to guarantee the survival of the regime.

Pyongyang has been rushing to set up special economic zones all across the country, eased relevant regulations and given greater leeway to mangers of factories and cooperative farms to boost production.

Officials from the North's National Economic Development Committee also indicated the country's growing attempts to invite overseas Koreans to its soil for investment.

Introducing its "proactive work to foster economic experts," the North "welcomes the participation of overseas Koreans in this field and active investment by Korean businessmen," a committee official said in an interview with Minjoktongsin, a pro-North Korean website operated by a U.S.-based Korean, earlier this week.

In a move to boost economic cooperation with Koreans oversea, Pyongyang has sought ways to make access to the North easier for businesspeople, the official added.

"North Korea seems to be turning more to overseas Koreans amid difficulties in attracting foreign investment due to international sanctions," said Kim Yong-hyun, a professor of North Korea studies at Dongguk University in Seoul.

"Kim Jong-un has been pushing for such economic cooperation projects in an organized fashion compared to his predecessors," he added. (Yonhap)