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NORKS breaks ground on new high-tech industrial park

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North Korea has finally begun building a new industrial complex designed to encourage investment from hi-tech companies hailing from across the border.

The official ground-breaking for Kaesong Hi-Tech Industrial Park took place last week, according to reports from the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) spotted by the North Korea Tech blog.

“The park will have an IT centre, hotel, dwelling houses, school and other buildings, as well as a power plant,” the report claimed.

The “Peace and Economy Development Group” will take the reins – a consortium apparently comprised of firms from Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, the Middle East and Africa.

Further details are in short supply, a common occurrence when writing about events in the Hermit Kingdom, although it’s likely that the park will be built next or close to the existing Kaesong Industrial Complex given that it is already connected to the south by road and rail.

News of the ground-breaking presumably indicates that Pyongyang has decided to tone down hostilities towards its neighbour which surfaced earlier this year, leading to the country pulling its 50,000+ workers from the Kaesong complex.

Those workers earn much less than South Korean and even Chinese workers, but do rather better than most North Koreans even if they are taxed on their earnings. Those taxes, and thos levied on companies in the economic zone, are among North Korea's few sources of income.

The economic importance of the complex to Kim Jong-un means it's not surprising operations were restarted again after a few months, in September, or that he’s now looking for a new round of investment from South Korea’s technology firms.

News of the project first surfaced last month after local reports claimed construction and design companies from Singapore and Hong Kong had been brought on board to work on the complex.

The KCNA report came at the end of an international conference on special economic zones in Pyongyang, with plans to build a toll road from Pyongyang to Capital Airport apparently also agreed. ®

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