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N.K.'s bid to lure foreign investment to hit snag: experts

All News 16:52 January 28, 2016

SEOUL, Jan. 28 (Yonhap) -- North Korea is eager to attract foreign investment at its special economic zones in areas bordering China, but its latest nuclear test will likely hamper success, experts said Thursday.

The North has unveiled an investment guideline written in Korean, English and Chinese for its special economic zone in the northwestern border city of Sinuiju, according to North Korea's portal site Naenara.

Sinuiju was designated a special administrative zone in 2002, but it quickly fizzled out. The area was renamed Sinuiju International Economic Zone in 2013 amid North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's push for economic development.

In November, North Korea also unveiled detailed plans to develop its special economic zone in Rason into a regional logistics hub close to both China and Russia.

North Korea has sought to develop the zone since it designated Rason, formerly known as Rajin and Sonbong, as a special economic zone in 1991. But its ambitious plan has faced serious setbacks as foreign investment remains lackluster due to the North's provocations.

Analysts said North Korea will likely face difficulty in luring foreign investment as tension sparked by the North's nuclear test on Jan. 6 has chilled investors' sentiment.

The United Nations Security Council is working on a fresh resolution for "stronger and more comprehensive" sanctions against the North.

"The North's latest nuke test has further worsened investors' sentiment," said Lim Eul-chul, a professor at the Institute for Far East Studies of Kyungnam University. "Chinese businessmen have said that they cannot invest in North Korea if tension rises on the Korean Peninsula."

Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies, said the North seems to give off the impression that it is more focused on boosting the economy in a bid to water down its nuclear aspiration.

The North's leader Kim has been pursuing his signature policy of nuclear and economic development in tandem, commonly known as the "byeongjin" policy. Seoul and Washington have warned that the North's dual-track policy is a dead end.

"Financing should be supported if special economic zones operate smoothly," Lim said. "If new sanctions are to target North Korea's financing, the North's move to attract foreign investors will face severe strains."

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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