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(SEJONG=Yonhap News) Foreign direct investment (FDI) pledged to South Korea's free economic zones (FEZs) is expected to reach a four-year high in 2016 on the government's efforts to attract more overseas investment, data showed Tuesday.
Fresh FDI committed so far this year to the country's eight FEZs stood at US$2.42 billion, soaring 66 percent from $1.46 billion tallied a year ago, according to the data compiled by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.
The 2016 figure marked the highest since 2012 when it hit a record $2.56 billion.
FDI commitment for FEZs accounted for 13 percent of the country's total FDI pledges in 2016, up from the previous year's 7 percent, added the data.
The Incheon FEZ, the largest and first FEZ in South Korea, received $1.57 billion won in FDI, followed by Busan with $458.1 million and Gwangyang with $201.9 million.
The country has designated eight FEZs across the country since 2003, including those in Incheon and Busan, in a bid to attract more foreign companies through tax incentives and eased business regulations.
In recent years, however, foreign businesses have turned away from FEZs due to weaker-than-expected benefits and delayed development of facilities.
The Seoul government announced a set of measures in August to speed up construction of infrastructure in FEZs and expand incentives and benefits to foreigners in order to reinvigorate the areas. It also eased administrative and legal procedures, including reviews on issuing casino permits.
Also, the sectors of renewable energy, biochemicals, futuristic vehicles such as electronic cars, and convergence materials will be newly invited to the FEZs, along with current key industries like steel, shipbuilding and petrochemicals, as part of the government's long-term plan to bolster such potential industries as new growth engines.
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Source: Yonhap News (Dec. 20, 2016)