There can be little doubt that the 21st century will see Asia emerging as the world’s economic powerhouse. South Korea is one of the countries best placed to take advantage of this trend and the government is moving swiftly to provide a first-class infrastructure to serve global business.

This is clearly reflected in the western coastal city of Gunsan, headquarters of the Gunjang National Industrial Complex (NIC), which has been designated by the South Korean government as a new production and logistics base in the Pan-Yellow Sea region.

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Gunsan provides ease of access to major Korean cities, as well as both Gyeongsang provinces and the soon-to-be-constructed, multifunctional administrative city. Thanks to Gunsan Port and excellent rail and road connections, the Gunsan facilities also offer substantial operating cost reductions.

Low costs

With the new Gunsan port at the heart of this development, investors and trading partners will enjoy low logistics costs and a wide variety of industrial sites covering an area of more than 323 million square feet of auto and machine parts industrial complex, thanks to the Cluster Development Project that is being actively supported by the central government, which had pledged Won10bn ($10.9m) in support of project development.

Today, about 8200 workers are employed at 119 companies in the complex, including automakers, machinery manufacturers and shipbuilders. The Gunsan Cluster Development Agency (GCDA) is a new pillar of support to the national economy, with plans for 250 firms operating in the complex by next year, rising to 600 firms with 40,000 employees by 2013.

Dr Ki-jae Song, head director of Gunsan Cluster Development Agency, says Gunsan is a ideally suitable for the auto industry, with giants such as GM Daewoo and TATA Daewoo Motors already investing and with a wide range of auto parts manufacturers in close proximity. “Our location is ideal for doing global business,” he says.

“We are close to several key regions in China, making Gunsan the perfect seaport. After the completion of the Saemangeum project we will have 40,100 hectares of land, and the Saemangeum port, with a depth of 15 to 25 metres, will be constructed there, which can accommodate vessels of up to 300,000 tonnes. Gunsan port will eventually be more competitive than Yangsan in China.”

GCDA is offering corporate investors grants of up to 10% of the total investment to a maximum of Won10bn, as well as speedy processing of permits and documentation. Foreign companies that invest more than $10m on a manufacturing facility or $5m on logistics can qualify for tax exemptions on property and income.

Support services

“We offer support such as getting patents for new products, marketing and even producing brochures,” says Dr Ki-jae. “Our geographical position has also helped us earn this accolade. We are contiguous to China, and are confident Gunsan will become the main logistics complex of north-east Asia. Further, with the start of the west coast express highway project, we can offer various modes of transport, from the Honam and Gunsan-Pohang freeway, to the Gunsan airport and free port.”

GCDA is particularly keen to attract high-tech industries, advanced technology-related industries and industrial support services. There are also excellent opportunities auto-mobile and machinery industries and other manufacturing businesses with a potential for technology transfer and job creation.