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South Korea will move to revitalize its industrial complexes through renovation that will include significant improvements to living and working conditions, the government said Wednesday, a move partly aimed at preventing companies from moving overseas.
The plan was reviewed and endorsed by a government council on promotion of trade and investment, which was chaired by President Park Geun-hye.
"Industrial complexes are important for our export competitiveness," Park said during the meeting. "Now is the time to make industrial complexes more innovative and creative spaces, get them to be near cities, and add housing, cultural and welfare features to aged complexes."
Park also reiterated the importance of deregulation in boosting investment.
"After all, the best way to expand investment is lifting regulations and (building) trust in policies," she said, calling for a bold lifting of environmental and other regulations in a way that lessens the burdens on companies while at the same time attaining their intended purposes.
"As I have always said, we have to certainly change the paradigm of regulations to a negative way," Park said. Lifting regulations in a negative fashion refers to lifting all but core regulations.
According to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, there are currently 993 industrial complexes in the country, including 41 state-designated districts, housing 67,895 firms that together account for 65 percent of the country's total manufacturing output and 76 percent of exports.
Of the total, only about 10 percent, or 102 complexes, have been labeled aged as they were built over 20 years ago, the ministry said in a press release.
However, the number of companies at industrial complexes has been steadily decreasing, while 23.5 percent of firms surveyed in 2012 said they were considering moving their production facilities overseas.
The ministry said the largest reason for the companies to consider moving overseas was their difficulty in finding new, young workers.
A recent survey showed more than two-thirds of college students are reluctant to work at an industrial complex, according to the ministry.
Of all respondents who answered they do not wish to work at an industrial complex, 80.8 percent cited as reasons non-economic issues, such as the lack of cultural, convenience facilities and adequate public transportation, while only 12.6 percent cited low wages.
To help attract more young workers, the government will designate four industrial complexes in 2014 and up to 25 by 2017 for a major makeover that will include the construction of solar power plants as part of efforts to improve environmental conditions.
The government will also work to improve living conditions at industrial complexes, injecting 23.1 billion won (US$21.5 million) this year and another 23.7 billion won in 2014 to build new day care centers and kindergartens.
To further improve living conditions, the government will seek to revise related laws in the first half of next year to allow for the construction of dormitories and living quarters for workers at industrial complexes.
It will also expand the number of bus routes to and from industrial complexes throughout the country from the current nine to 20 before the end of the year, the ministry said.
"Previous efforts to renovate aged industrial complexes have had certain limits as they were pursued separately by different government offices," Yoon Sang-jick, minister of trade, industry and energy, was quoted as saying.
"The government will work to create visible results this time by combining the efforts of all government offices under the new plan."
In addition to improving conditions at existing complexes, the government said it will also build nine new industrial complexes, including three near the Seoul metropolitan area, by 2015, a move partly aimed at revitalizing the sagging real estate market in the capital region.
In a separate press release, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport said it has already tapped six areas for new industrial complexes, three of which will officially be designated in 2014.
The move is widely expected to lead to the development of areas currently designated green belts, which in turn will likely lead to a rise in land prices in Seoul.
Source: Yonhap News (Sep. 25, 2013)