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[Herald Interview] ‘YESFEZ ready to rise as Northeast Asia’s industrial hub’

As one of South Korea’s leading special economic zones, the Yellow Sea Free Economic Zone is seeking to leap into its next stage of development to become a high-tech industrial complex pivoting on knowledge-based businesses, according to its chief.

“Northeast Asia has risen to become one of the world’s top three economic clusters, along with the European Union and the North American Free Trade Agreement,” Lee Hwa-soon, commissioner of the Yellow Sea Free Economic Zone, told The Korea Herald in an interview.

“As a key free economic zone located in South Korea’s metropolitan region, YESFEZ will serve as a central distribution hub of Northeast Asia, connecting trade partners and providing a top business environment to companies."

Lee Hwa-soon, commissioner of the Yellow Sea Free Economic Zone. (YESFEZ)
Lee Hwa-soon, commissioner of the Yellow Sea Free Economic Zone. (YESFEZ)

YESFEZ covers an area of 439 hectares. It was established in 2008 to offer special benefits to knowledge-based industries, induce foreign investment and establish an advanced base of trade with China.

Formerly run by Gyeonggi Province and South Chungcheong Province, the zone is now under the supervision of only Gyeonggi Province, as South Chungcheong Province was excluded from the free economic zone designation in 2014.

YESFEZ recently started to parcel out industrial land in the Pyeongtaek BIX (short for Business & Industry Complex) zone, seeking to create a comprehensive business cluster that can serve as an internal hub for the entire economic zone.

Slated to be completed by 2020, Pyeongtaek BIX will not only offer high-tech facilities and a logistics system but also a cultural environment for residents’ sustainable stay and operations.

“Located in the southernmost part of the metropolitan area, Pyeongtaek Dangjin Port is a crucial outpost in trade with China and Southeast Asian states, as well as an optimal spot for inland logistics,” Lee said.

The nation’s western port is located within 24-hour navigation from key Chinese cities, such as Dalian and Qingdao, and is likely to gain access to the Trans China Railway and Trans Siberia Railway in the future.

It was ranked the country’s largest port and the world’s fifth-largest in automobile trade, as well as the country’s No. 1 manufacturing site for semiconductors.

The presence of the nation’s major businesses in the vicinity is another strength of YESFEZ, the commissioner added.

“The Godeok Industrial Complex of Samsung Electronics, the logistics centers of Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors, the production plants of Ssangyong Motor and of Hyundai Steel altogether create an ideal industrial environment, especially for knowledge-based players,” she said.

Last year, amid the aftermath of strained relations between Seoul and Beijing, YESFEZ signed a memorandum of understanding with China’s Silk Road International Cultural & Economic Cooperation Communication Organization, as part of efforts to revitalize estranged bilateral ties.

As a result of such actions, YESFEZ has so far attracted $22.9 million in foreign direct investment and $1.95 million in letters of intent, as well as some $2 billion of investment promises through memorandums.

“Our next step will be to diversify conventional industrial facilities by adding research and development functions and knowledge-based industries, as well as education, medical services, tourism and distribution,” Lee said.

For small-sized enterprises and venture firms, YESFEZ offers accounting support through its investment income prediction system in order to help smaller players make the right investment decisions, according to the commissioner.

By Bae Hyun-jung (