IFEZ Strives to Become the Hub of Northeast Asian Business
By Mee-Hyoe Koo
The Incheon Free Economic Zone (IFEZ) is increasingly gaining recognition worldwide for its recent developments and positive future prospects as the emerging hub for businesses and logistics in Northeast Asia.
“We hope to become one of the world’s top 10 cities by 2020, rising from the current status as the 221st,” says IFEZ Commissioner Lee Heon-seok. “Further, we hope to draw 20 million foreign visitors and tourists annually. Though we may have had a slower start compared to other global rivals like Singapore, Hong Kong and China’s Pudong district in Shanghai, we remain positive over the future of IFEZ as it has a highly advantageous distribution network, cutting-edge facilities and unique investment environments.”
One of the advantages of the IFEZ lies in its superb logistics network, such as the Incheon International Airport, which serves as a critical juncture connecting Beijing, Seoul and Tokyo.
“Global companies seeking to make investments in Northeast Asia can take advantage of their locations in Incheon by securing their business bases and a bridgehead into the Chinese market. They can maximize the use of world-class IT services, excellent workers and R&D resources that are in the IFEZ,” says Lee. Equipped with advanced facilities, the airport emerged as one of the top international plane terminals in terms of international passengers and second in overseas cargo last year. Further buoyed by such factors, IFEZ envisions growing into a distribution hub in East Asia by establishing infrastructure facilities such as free trade areas and distribution complexes within its territory. Korea’s advanced information technology (IT), as well as its highly educated workforce, is another advantage spurring IFEZ’s growth.
IFEZ prides itself on its unique investment environment, which differentiates IFEZ from other FEZs as Incheon strives to become a city of intelligence, ecology and design.
“The SongDo International City promotes development of an e-logistics business center to help SongDo become a trade center, while Hong Kong and Shanghai may work as transportation and cargo-working bases,” Lee explains. “The IFEZ aims to be ecofriendly: 29.9% of SongDo is parks and green areas, while 21.2% in CheongNa and 42.6% in YeongJong—37.5% (78.6 square km) of the total development size (209.5 square km)—offers ecological surroundings and the best residential environment. The IFEZ established an integrated system for the implementation of landscape and design ideas, and approximately 100 experts for each design area have been assigned to promote a design-sensitive FEZ.”
In addition, IFEZ aims to attract global organizations so that the economic zone will be home to more than 300 Northeast Asian headquarters of foreign companies, 15 foreign universities’ extended campuses and 30 international organizations, including United Nations (UN) affiliates, by 2014. “By then, most areas of the economic zone will be completed. The CheongNa District will have all residents, and more than 50% of the YeongJong area development plan will be finished,” Lee says.
The first phase of development and infrastructure is expected to be completed by 2009, leading IFEZ to pursue strengthened activities toward FDI. According to Lee, “IFEZ secured 13 investments totaling US$138 million in 2008 and aims to achieve 37 investments totaling US$410 million in 2009. The heart of the development includes construction of the Incheon Bridge in October 2009—the world’s fifth largest, measuring 21.3 km in length—and the Northeast Asia Trade Tower (NEATT) in March 2010.”
What’s more, as knowledge-based industries are critical stimuli for dynamic new growth, IFEZ is constructing the SongDo International Academic Research Complex to help create a hub for education, research and FDI in Northeast Asia.
With differentiation projects in IT, design and natural environment, Incheon will push on with various unique development schemes to become the hub for business, distribution, IT and tourism. It also envisions developing its role as an education and medical center.