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South Korea Courts U.S. Investors To Industrial Park In North Korea

South says the park is teaching the North about a free-market economy.

In an effort to expedite foreign investment, South Korea plans to invite U.S. investors to an industrial estate in North Korea this year, officials said April 24. The plan to hold an investor relations gathering for U.S. companies in October at the complex in the border city of Kaesong was endorsed at an economic meeting chaired by Finance and Economy Minister Kwon O-Kyu, his office said.

The two Koreas -- still technically at war -- agreed to build Kaesong following their first and only summit in 2000.

South Korea hopes to make Kaesong a development model, combining its capital and the North's cheap labor, to reduce tensions and introduce the hard-line state to the market economy. But the U.S refused to recognize Kaesong products as South Korean goods when the two countries struck a free trade deal earlier this month.

Some critics say Kaesong is providing hard currency which the North can use for its missile and nuclear program. South Korean officials deny this and say Kaesong is teaching the communist state the workings of a free-market economy.

Currently, some 13,000 workers are employed by 22 South Korean firms which produce labor-intensive products such as garments and kitchenware.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2007

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