| South Korean President held bilateral talks with Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta on Thursday in Saint Petersburg, Russia on the sidelines of the Group of 20 (G20) summit. The two leaders focused on issues of bilateral economic cooperation.
When the Italian prime minister said his country was very interested in investing in South Korea, President Park Geun-hye immediately proposed that Italy participate in an inter-Korean industrial complex in Kaesong, North Korea. She said that the two Koreas agreed to "internationalize" the Kaesong complex and provide an international-level business guarantee, expressing hope that Italian companies would participate in Kaesong. In other words, she recommended the Kaesong Industrial Complex as a potential investment place in South Korea.
Although President Park is strongly determined to internationalize the complex, mainly Chinese companies were cited as potential investors in reality, as the possibility of other foreign companies investing in Kaesong was very low at a time when there are lingering issues about transportation, telecommunication and customs clearance procedures.
However, President Park reportedly had the idea to propose the complex to European leaders as an investment opportunity if she finds a chance to do so before the G20 summit. She did not have such a chance during a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel last Friday because of longer-than-expected discussions about the Syria issue, although she was ready to propose that German companies participate in the Kaesong complex.
Sources say that the president does not think European companies will invest large amounts of money immediately. However, she decided that if European corporations do participate in the complex, the cases would become a symbol of its internationalization. President Park is determined to develop Kaesong into an industrial complex where international standards are in effect, enabling businesses to make profits independently from political situations. Unlike companies from the United States or China that are closely related with political situations on the Korean Peninsula, European companies` participation can give a signal that they invest in Kaesong because of profitability prospects rather than political reasons.
"Rather than making immediate results, she intends to deliver a message to European countries and businesses that they have an opportunity to consider the Kaesong complex and to North Korea that Seoul is committed to make Kaesong a success if Pyongyang is well prepared," said a key official at the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae.
Seoul plans to continue to discuss with Pyongyang measures to create an environment that would attract European companies to Kaesong. On Wednesday, the two Koreas agreed to hold an investor relations session next month for foreign businesses and entrepreneurs in South Korea. President Park reportedly plans to propose leaders of European companies to participate in the Kaesong complex during her visit to European countries, including Britain, in November.