The race to become the centre of international businesses in east Asia has a new ambitious contender in South Korea, named the Incheon Free Economic Zone (IFEZ).

Surprising the world with its miraculous economic development in the 1980s, Korea has found itself squeezed between low-cost China and high-tech Japan. Now, this small yet significant country is again emitting its own passion and enthusiasm to transform its positional weakness into a business advantage. At the centre of these efforts lies the IFEZ.

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Situated on the north-west coast of South Korea, the IFEZ is transforming into a technologically advanced business hub of north-east Asia. It aspires to become the bridgehead for entry into the north-east Asian market including China and Japan, and at the same time the hub of production utilising low-cost resources, advanced technology and market efficiencies with favourable business conditions, especially for the international community.

The IFEZ development began back in 2003. Four years of effort since then have turned the zone, formerly full of tidal mudflats, into a promising land of dazzling and imposing constructions and growing expectations.

Among major constructions, the Incheon Bridge (pictured top left) clearly shows the IFEZ’s great ambition. It will be a 14-mile-long sea and land bridge linking the Incheon International Airport to the IFEZ. This world’s fifth longest bridge will significantly reduce the time and costs of travel between the IFEZ and other global cities.

The total development cost for this landmark installation is estimated at $2.4bn. Developers include the London-based AMEC and Korea Expressway Corporation. The bridge is currently 60% built and scheduled to be fully completed in 2009.

The Incheon Bridge will provide the fastest way for business people from the airport to the Songdo International Business Complex (pictured top right), a representative business complex within the zone, currently under construction. Covering an area of 2.3 square miles, this complex will meet the demands of international business people who seek a full spectrum of urban lifestyle. Surrounded by beautiful greenery and waterfronts, it will provide technologically advanced business facilities and family-friendly amenities.

The total development cost for this business complex will be $25bn, making it one of the biggest private development projects in the world. Developers include New York-based Gale International and Seoul-based POSCO E&C. This complex is scheduled to be completed by 2014.

Luxury and charm

In addition, Geneva-based Kempinski has formed a development consortium to develop an 8.5 square mile luxurious leisure complex in the zone. This complex will provide the Asian business hub with world-class European charms, making it a truly universal land.

The IFEZ is a business city currently under development. Yet, it is also a lively place that provides business convenience and living amenities for the people living and working in the area: the Incheon International Airport and its hinterland, early-developed industrial districts, a free trade area, a 72-hole golf club, public parks, greenery and waterfronts are among them (pictured bottom).

As of September 2007, the IFEZ marked a total investment of $36bn for development or business. Global players ranging from HP of the US to Schenker of Germany are claiming their land to realise the vast fortune of business opportunities that the IFEZ will hold.

The IFEZ is not the first-ranking business hub yet, but it is clearly the fastest-growing business hub in north-east Asia.

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