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Korea to build new Chinatown in capital region

South Korea will build a new Chinatown near Seoul that will serve as an international shopping and tourism hub, authorities said Wednesday.

The Chinatown, expected to be over 2.3 million square meters in size, will be built in Pyeongtaek, some 70 kilometers southeast of Seoul, according to the Yellow Sea Free Economic Zone (YSFEZ) authority.

The YSFEZ is one the country's several free economic zones (FEZs) located near the capital area.

The project, proposed by a special purpose company (SPC) established with major investment from Chinese firm Legions Group, has been reviewed by the related bodies as of March and is waiting official approval from the authorities.

The company, capitalized at 50 billion won (US$43 million), is 50-percent owned by Legions, 20 percent by Chinese individuals and

20 percent by South Korean private investors.

The plan is to build hotels, recreation and convention centers, as well as large-scale shopping facilities with duty-free shops in the newly envisioned town, named China Castle. The company said it will also establish medical centers, an international school and apartments in the area.

By attracting experts and students interested in South Korea and China, the company aims to make the region appeal to Chinese tourists, as well as service and distribution industries.

The initial engineering work of the project is slated to be finished by 2018. The company said it will complete selling the lots to both South Korean and Chinese firms by 2022.

"The area which will be developed with Chinese capital aims to become a Chinese-friendly city and a grand-scale shopping hub for the 1.5 billion Asian population," said Sohn Jong-cheon, an advisor for the SPC company.

Yang Jae-wan, the chief of the SPC firm, said he is expecting to welcome around 50 million annual visitors by 2025 and to compete with Hong Kong and Macao over Asian tourism by 2035.

The approval for the project is expected to be completed once the agreement on fund investments is made, according to the free economic zone authority. (Yonhap)

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