Incheon Free Economic Zone (IFEZ), which made great achievements last year such as the hosting of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) Secretariat despite unfavorable global economic conditions, is on the move to make further strides.
“Our accomplishments of last year wouldn’t have been possible without the support of all Incheon citizens and dedicated efforts of our staff,” IFEZ commissioner Lee Jong-chul expressed his gratitude during his recent interview with the BusinessKorea before speaking of his aspirations for this year.
“The government’s tax incentives have been expanded to cover engineering and information service businesses and the equity capital requirements applied to economic zone developers have been eased while a preliminary review system for casino businesses has been introduced for better development and investment environments,” he continued, “This year marks the 10th anniversary of the designation of Incheon City as a free economic zone, prior to any other cities in Korea, for creation of new growth drivers and we’ll redouble our efforts for an even brighter future.”
Record-high Investment Attractions
One of the most notable accomplishments of the IFEZ for last year is that its foreign investment attractions hit a new high. The organization attracted US$2.07 billion of foreign investments in 2012 alone, which was the highest since its inception back in 2003. The commissioner emphasized that he will set a new record yet again this year through a great deal of effort.
Also, the IFEZ hosted the Secretariat of the GCF, which is the first international organization in the environmental field to be led by Asian nations. Its presence is expected to enhance the global standing of the IFEZ along with the other 10 international bodies to be housed there, including the Northeast Asia office of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP).
With regard to the hosting of the GCF Secretariat, he remarked, “The Secretariat is likely to be housed in the I-Tower in July or August this year and the number of its staff is expected to be less than 100 during its early stage. Between March 12 and 15, the first board of directors meeting of the GCF is held in Berlin, Germany for the approval of the agreement between the Korean government and the GCF headquarters and the selection of the secretary-general. The agreement is going to be ratified between April and May before the agreement is signed by both.”
He added, “If the Korean office of the World Bank, the world’s largest international organization in the financial industry, follows the Secretariat to be housed in the IFEZ, the symbolic value will be truly great and I hope that good news will come out sooner or later.” The World Bank sent a working group in early December 2012 regarding the establishment of the regional office and conducted a field survey, confirming that the IFEZ has the most optimal conditions for the office.
Many Foreign Universities to Be Housed in IFEZ
At the same time, a number of world-renowned colleges are waiting to find their way into the IFEZ. According to the Songdo Global University Campus Project, around 10 foreign universities are planned to be housed in Zone 7, which is located in Songdo-dong, Yeonsu-gu, Incheon City, with more than 10,000 students. The goal of the undertaking is to keep together competitive colleges and departments for exchange of knowledge and culture between the East and the West and promotion of Northeast Asia studies.
During the course of the project, State University of New York (SUNY) Korea was opened in March 2012 as the first foreign college in Korea, giving wings to the IFEZ’s strategy to turn itself into a global education hub. The undergraduate Department of Technology Management is scheduled to be opened in March this year after the Education, Science and Technology Ministry’s approval. George Mason University is slated to be opened there in March 2014, too.
“Throughout this year, the global recession will linger on to add economic uncertainties, which means a lot of development and investment projects will have hard time procuring financial resources,” said the commissioner, “However, the IFEZ will turn the crisis into an opportunity with its return-to-basics attitude and out-of-box thinking, striving to get closer to the goal of becoming the business center of Northeast Asia.”