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Diverse Special Zones to Be Allowed from Next Year

Posted July. 07, 2003 21:39,   


From next year, the South Korean government will allow the establishment of a special zone maximizing the features of each region in Seoul. Localities will be able to establish English education zones, venture business zones and even sushi zones.

According to a report issued yesterday by the Ministry of Finance and Economy, the South Korean government is supposed to introduce the act to Parliament, called the Local Specialty Development Act. If passed, the Roh administration predicts that the Act will boost the local economy.

The Ministry explained that it had found that there was ample demand for advancing the local economy centered around the specialty of each region. That is why, the Ministry argues, it is necessary for the government to step in and develop programs.

For example, if an area is designated as an English zone, the area will be immune from all regulations governing employment of native English teachers. Thus, requirements for hiring native speakers will be lowered, and each locality will be given autonomy in organizing relevant curricula.

The newest move stemmed from one the Japanese government adopted in April and has been enforcing. Japan currently has 117 special zones.

The Roh administration plans to give priority to local governments in enforcement of the policy. Then, based on a case-by-case basis, it will expand the system to the Seoul Metropolitan area. Items to be deregulated are to be proposed by the local government without any involvement on the part of the central government.

Furthermore, the central government is to relegate diverse authorities to local governments so that each can make its special zones more attractive. For instance, a local government can prohibit traffic in certain areas of its jurisdiction.

The central government, however, will not fund any project, or grant any tax benefits for these special zones. Consequently, each locality has to fund its own projects by issuing bonds, or enticing foreign or private investment.

Ministry officials will start touring the nation until July 19, explaining the new policy, and take applications until the end of August.

Twice a year, the Ministry will receive applications and designate additional areas for development. Then, it will conduct an annual assessment of the zones to determine whether it should expand the system nationwide.

Ki-Jeong Ko koh@donga.com