Incheon FEZ On Reclaimed Land
The importance of foreign direct investment (FDI) cannot be overstated in restoring the vitality of the country’s economy and transforming the country into a business hub. Foreign investment not only contributes in fighting a financial crisis but also plays a key role in sustained growth of the economy.
To attract a sizable amount of foreign investment a country has to introduce a variety of incentives like tax exemption or reduction, research and development, and logistics that support industry and service sectors. FDI is one of the most important factors of economic development in the contemporary world. Today, FDI is a basic mechanism of capital flows in the globalized economy, and the key factor for economic development in many countries.
In this regard, Incheon, the western coast area long known more for never living up to its investment potential, has now emerged as one of the most vibrant economic zones of South Korea. Serving as the gateway to northeast Asia with its state-of-the-art airport, Incheon has emerged as South Korea’s first Free Economic Zone (FEZ), one of the three regions designated by the Korean government to attract foreign investment and to promote multilateral businesses.
Incheon was home to just 4,700 people when it became an international port in 1883. Today, about 3 million people live here that has been transformed into Korea’s high-tech futuristic city. It is a prosperous port city planning to become a northeast Asian business and logistic hub. Thus, from 2007, Incheon was declared as an “English Speaking City” as Hong Kong and Singapore are.
The Northeast Asia Trade Tower (right) is a 68-storey building with an observatory on the 65th floor in Incheon.
Part of what makes cities like Venice, Amsterdam and Macau special is that they are all located near bodies of water. Incheon falls in this group in addition to its world class international airport and the successful hosting of the 2014 Asian Games.
The new zone encompasses three smaller areas spanning more than 200 combined square kilometers – Songdo, Yeongjong and Cheongna. Among these, Songdo has been acting as the technological mecca while Yeongjong is serving as a logistics center whereas Cheongna is a tourist attraction.
As participants of World Journalists Conference held in Korea last month, the media people from the nooks and corners of the globe got an opportunity to have the first-hand experience of the vivid aspects of Incheon.
Incheon is a city of sunsets and beaches, while not being very far away from Seoul. Off the coast of Incheon, the sun sets on an endless horizon, capturing everyone’s attention as they stop and turn towards the west. People living here are able to savour that enchanting moment every day. At the southern tip of the city is a port called Soraepogu. At daybreak, the port is alive with conversation and laughter, echoing the sounds of the splashing fish. The Yellow Sea around the Korean Peninsula may not be home to the largest diversity of sea creatures, but the night’s catch of various fishes will all be available at the local market the next morning. In Incheon, many people choose to eat the fish raw, which is called hoe in Korean, a delicious fish wrapped in lettuce with gochujang (hot pepper paste).
Lying west of Seoul, Incheon is Korea’s second biggest port city. Sailors leave through Incheon port when heading to the Pacific Ocean via the Yellow Sea, while the city’s Incheon Airport serves as a gateway to the rest of the world.
Incheon’s geographical location has historically made it the first Korean city to be exposed to outside influences. Due to that same reason, Incheon has been chosen by the Korean government as the optimal place to launch an FEZ. Incheon’s FEZ is a special area which aims to attract foreign investment with government support, based on the Foreign Investment Promotion Act.
Foreign business people are given various incentives here, including financial support, prime industrial locations and tax benefits. As mentioned earlier, the city has designated the three districts of Cheongna, Yeongjong and Songdo as part of FEZ. Of these three areas, Songdo International Business District and Incheon International Airport situated on an artificially created piece of land are the fastest growing.
Skyscrapers are going up all around and will remind visitors of international business centers in Asia like Hong Kong, Macau, and Singapore. And the skyline, when seen against the backdrop of a pure blue sky, is nothing less than dazzling.
The most impressive building here is undoubtedly the Northeast Asia Trade Tower, a 68-floor building with an observatory on the 65th floor that commands a spectacular view of the sea and the city. Once all the work is completed on this landmark man-made city in 2018, Songdo will certainly attract the attention of the world, and the Northeast Asia Trade Tower will play a key role as a global business hub.
With construction of the Compact/Smart City, the Tri-Bowl, the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club and the many luxury hotels are set to be a global business hub that embraces the IT and biotechnology industries with a knowledge-based industrial complex, a bio-industrial complex and cutting-edge industrial clusters.
A 21.38 km long Incheon Bridge which gracefully crosses over the adjacent sea to Songdo built with the latest technology is Korea’s longest bridge and the world’s seventh longest cable-stayed bridge. Driving over it feels like running on the sea.
Today, Incheon International Airport is positioning itself as a major global hub and has been ranked one of the top airports by the SKYTRAX World Airport Quality Audit. Currently, it is the second largest handler of international freight and the eighth busiest for international passenger transportation.
The Incheon Bridge of South Korea is the seventh longest (21.38 kilometres) cable-stayed bridge in the world.
Beyond the airport is a series of islands that feature pristine natural beauty. Lovers on the stretch of the sandy beaches, seagulls up above, and small restaurants dotting the waterline add to a quiet, beautiful scene of relaxation. Incheon is certain to become one of the most popular coastal cities.
Nepal has a significant potential for attracting more FDI. The present government is working hard to create an investment friendly atmosphere in the country to attract larger number of foreign investors. As Nepal has made a promising start in implementing market-oriented reform and promoting FDI, taking lessons from Incheon FEZ creating havens of good facilities for investors must be the way forward.
Taking advantage of the available opportunities the country should keep rolling on with an aim to develop the country into a regional economic hub.
Jong Youb Kim is the Executive Director of Korean Environment Corporation (K-eco), Chungcheong Region in the Republic of Korea (RoK). A university graduate...