Park assures foreign investors South Korea safe for business

By Lee Joo-hee | Source: ANN
South Korea President Park Geun-hye assured foreign investors here Thursday that South Korea will remain a safe and stable place for business in a meeting held amidst growing concerns over North Korea’s threats of a war.

“The Republic of Korea is a country that accomplished the miracle of the Han River by the people who have exerted their best abilities while remaining undeterred throughout risks, which in the eyes of other countries, could have been more than on several occasions, startling,” said Park in a meeting with business representatives of the US, Europe, Japan, Germany and France.

Park stressed that Seoul was keeping a staunch watch on any provocation with strong military deterrence and through close cooperation with the US, China and the international community.

“I would like to say, with conviction, that a stable environment will continue to be made in which you can feel secure and make investment and conduct business,” Park told the participants, accompanied by her top security aides including national security chief Kim Jang-soo.

Representatives of eBay, Google, GE Healthcare, Citibank Korea, BASF Korea, Siemens, Standard Chartered Bank Korea, Dongwoo Fine-Chem, Denso, Bank of China and S-Oil also joined in the luncheon that was held as the country and the rest of the world anticipate possible multiple missile launches by Pyongyang.

The members, in response to Park, expressed faith in the Seoul government’s security and affirmed continued cooperation, with some representatives stating their wider investment plans for this year, Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Yoon Chang-jung said.

Siemens, for instance, said an engineering company will be set up in the South with a record number of foreign technicians to act as a regional headquarter. S-Oil also said its investment to Korea will be expanded by four-fold in the future.

Amy Jackson, president of the American Chamber of Commerce Korea, was quoted as saying that the US companies will be staying in the South and that she will continue to send a message to the headquarters of US companies operating here that they are confident about the business condition here.

The meeting was reportedly scheduled three weeks ago, as tension soared upon North Korea’s annulment of the ceasefire treaty and a suspension of military hotline last month, which was followed by a unilateral pull-out of all workers from the join industrial complex in Gaeseong.

Reiterating her determination to maintain Korea as an attractive business ground for foreign investors, Park also praised them for contributing to the Korean economy.

“Foreign investment companies have played a huge role and continue to play a pivotal position in the Korean economy as South Korea came to accomplish such growth of today.”

The president explained her “creative economy” mantra will also apply to foreign businesses who she urged to expand their investment into innovation-forward R&D and strengthen cooperation with Korean companies.

The participants also shared views on Park’s creative economy, and requested the Seoul government to provide better systematic support such as in e-commerce.

The South Korean government has been underscoring a “calm” posture against North Korea’s escalating saber-rattling, which included a warning for foreigners to evacuate the South for their safety earlier this week.

While South Koreans and foreign residents here remained mostly calm, some jittery signs have been showing in the economic and financial markets as North Korea was seen to resort to hard-line brinkmanship.

Last week, foreign investors withdrew over 3 trillion won worth of funds from the stock and bond market between April 3-5, while the sovereign risk on state bonds measured by credit default swap premium rose the highest among the Northeast Asian countries by 24.26 basis points to 87.90bp over the last month.

However, other indexes have shown South Korea remains an attractive business destination, with foreign direct investment reaching US$3.39 billion in the first quarter of this year, a 45 per cent increase from a year ago.

The Korea Composite Stock Price Index has also been surging over the past three days as of Thursday morning, moving up 5.80 points to 1941.38.