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[Weekender] FEZ woos foreign businesses, talent

About a decade ago, this place was basically a wasteland, a landfill or, at best, farmland.

But the 82.3-square-kilometer area between Busan and Jinhae, a district in Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province, has rapidly transformed into a cutting-edge business cluster, with 103 foreign-invested firms and 840 domestic businesses. The Busan-Jinhae Free Economic Zone is now becoming a Northeast Asian business hub, thanks to its key location.

“The BJFEZ is located at the center of Northeast Asia, connecting China, Japan and Russia. It has great logistics and transportation infrastructure that support global business activities,” said Seo Seok-soong, commissioner of the BJFEZ. The free economic zone celebrated its 10th anniversary on March 12.

“By 2020, we will have the world’s fifth-largest harbor with capacity to dock 45 vessels at the same time. The zone will also host cutting-edge technology industries including shipbuilding, automotive and machine manufacturing. There will be research and development centers, a comprehensive tourism complex and so much more that will help Busan and Jinhae become a major part of the country’s economy,” Seo added. 
Seo Seok-soong, commissioner of the BJFEZ (BJFEZ)
Seo Seok-soong, commissioner of the BJFEZ (BJFEZ)

Currently, 32.6 square kilometers of land is ready for use out of the 82.3 square kilometers scheduled to be developed by 2020. The BJFEZ authorities have managed to attract more than $167 million in foreign direct investment.

The BJFEZ is located near the Gimhae International Airport, which has 31 air routes to 11 countries. It also has Shinhang Port, one of the most popular marine logistics destinations; Geoga Bridge and a railway link, which make it a superb logistics environment. The Shinhang, or new port, is capable of handling over 10 million TEUs annually at 23 berths.

“Moreover, the free economic zone is very close to automotive, shipbuilding and parts industrial clusters in Busan and South Gyeongsang (Province) areas. They are only about a two-hour drive away. In the Mieum Foreign Investment Zone, global companies such as Bosch, Rexroth, Wilo Pump, Hoganas and Geislinger are operating. The Nammun zone is also expected to play a global role as a parts and materials industrials complex since Japanese business Tsubakimoto and Danish company Sondex moved in,” Seo said.

With the aim of attracting foreign companies specializing in logistics and business services, and creating an environment that encourages investment, the BJFEZ Authority has been giving out a variety of incentive packages. Based on Article 18 of the Foreign Investment Promotion Act, up to seven years of tax incentives are given, added to the free trade benefits.

But it is not only about business. The BJFEZ Authority has been working to attract foreigners to the area. In 2011, German tech-oriented Friedrich-Alexander University opened its Busan campus, contributing to the nurturing of local engineers and scientists.

Myeongji District, within the BJFEZ, has recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Brighton College of Britain.

“Ungdong District is preparing to establish Changwon International Foreign School, too. We understand that improving the living conditions for foreigners is essential to attracting more foreign investment,” Seo said.

The BJFEZ is also providing a boost to western Busan. “For a long time, the western part of Busan has been underdeveloped compared to its flashier eastern counterpart, including the famous beach areas of Haeundae. But with the BJFEZ, the Eco Delta City, the Busan R&D special zone and others being established, we are revitalizing the west Busan region,” Seo said.

“By 2020, when the development process has wrapped up, the BJFEZ will lead southeastern Korea’s economy. Free from unnecessary regulations and tailoring our services for the users, I am sure that we will be a free economic zone, of a kind” Seo said.

By Bae Ji-sook (
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