[EDITORIALS]Make the zones workThree districts of Incheon ― Songdo, Yeongjongdo and Cheongna ― have been designated as Korea’s first special economic zones. The Kim Dae-jung administration conceived the idea of such zones but had difficulties in the Assembly, so the special economic zone law was not passed until the end of last year. After many complications, the zones have now been set up. They reflect Korea’s concern about where it can find a new engine of growth. The nation has judged that it should quickly develop itself into a Northeast Asian hub for financial services and logistics, in order to win its competition with China and Japan.
But there were controversies as well. Politicians under the sway of regionalism wanted a system in which zones could be set up anywhere, which could have been a problem. Then the Roh Moo-hyun administration proposed a change in the framework of the system, nearly returning it to its starting point just before it went into effect.
And there are other issues that must be resolved. The restrictions on new factories in the Seoul area, including Incheon, will not apply to plants in the special economic zones. Foreign companies in the zones are exempt from corporate taxes and other taxes for periods of time. Some foreign firms are already showing an interest in investing in the special economic zones at Incheon, but said they had problems in deciphering the law and regulations ― literally because they are only in Korean, and figuratively because the procedures are very complex. We need for global standards to be applied here to reflect the global companies we want to attract. And the government should stop dithering and set up more foreign schools, now the subject of inter-ministerial wrangling.
If we aim at reaching a national income per capita of $20,000, we should take action to get there. The special economic zone system is an important way to reach that goal. We have already wasted a lot of time on controversies over the special economic zone system, so the government should carry out the application of the system with a determined attitude.