[Photo provided by The Ministry of Communication and Information of Singapore]
South Korean builders are moving fast to ride on the momentum of dialogue and opening in North Korea in the aftermath of the landmark summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
According to sources from the construction industry on Wednesday, the country’s major builders are working to study infrastructure opportunities in North Korea. Construction Association of Korea plans to hold a forum for local construction firms, research institutes and public entities on June 25 to discuss to touch on every issues and funding arrangements for SOC projects in the North that would be available to foreign builders once the reclusive country opens up to the outside world amid easing in sanctions in return for denuclearization.
Expectations are running high that the most secretive state in the world would soon invite foreign developers to turn around the impoverished country. The Korean builders are moving fast to take advantage of the landmark agreement reached between North Korea and the United States two days ago.
Under the four-point “comprehensive agreement,” Pyongyang and Washington vowed to establish new bilateral relationship for the peace and prosperity of the two nations, work towards building a lasting and stable peace of the Korean Peninsula, and commit to “complete denuclearization” of the peninsula. While North Korean leader Kim Jong-un reaffirmed his “firm and unwavering” commitment to complete denuclearization during the one-day summit in Singapore on Tuesday (local time), U.S. President Donald Trump in return vowed security guarantees to the North.
The South Korean construction industry expects Hyundai Asan who has exclusive rights to carry out seven infrastructure projects in North Korea to lead inter-Korean economic cooperation. Hyundai Group that used to lead ventures between the two Koreas paid $500 million in August 2000 to the North Korean regime for exclusive authority to spearhead seven projects for 30 years including the development of electricity and communications infrastructure, railway, airport in Tongcheon, dam on Imjin River, development of water resources from Mount Kumgang, and other tourist attractions in the North.
If Hyundai Asan can lead the possible inter-Korean projects, neighboring countries such as China and Japan could not put political pressures on the company as it is a private deal in which a private company paid its own money for, industry observers predicted.
The construction association and Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport of the South Korea are reportedly considering helping domestic builders to establish consortiums with Hyundai Asan for the future projects. The Seoul government last month met the nation’s major builders including Hyundai Engineering & Construction, Daewoo Engineering & Construction and Samsung C&T to pledge support and be briefed on their preparation work for projects in the North, according to sources.
Daewoo E&C became the first builder to launch a task force team for the future infrastructure projects in North Korea. It also newly established a division in charge of supporting North Korean projects under its strategic planning department last week.
By Chun Beom-ju and Choi Mira
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