[Letter to the editor]Success of talks advances many goalsThanks in large part to diligent efforts from China, the United States and South Korea, the six-party talks came to an agreement Feb. 13, 2007, that will greatly relieve tensions in the region. Any normalization of relations will increase external investment to both Koreas, and raise hopes of a peaceful and prosperous Northeast Asia with Korea as its economic center. For eight years, a city has been rising on reclaimed land off Incheon ― the $25 billion New Songdo City ― that has envisioned this prospect. Songdo’s proximity to North Korea, viewed by some in the past as a liability, is becoming a strategic asset.
Songdo may well prove a crucial component in the long range plan for a reunited Korea. This has been the enduring belief of South Korea’s national government, Incheon city led by Mayor Ahn Sang-soo, Gale International, and POSCO E&C ― the latter two are developing Songdo in a joint venture partnership. Gale International has been privileged to be a leader in this endeavor and has always viewed Songdo in its strategic, as well as economic, context. Foreign investment and economic partnership are necessary to fulfill Korea’s national hopes as the hub of Northeast Asia.
To international investors it was still far from a rosy picture in early 2001 when Gale International signed the first of the agreements that would lead to Songdo. Recovery from the financial crisis of 1998 was just beginning and by no means assured. There were tensions surrounding naval encounters between North Korea and South Korea. Suspected covert nuclear activity and missile tests by the North shook the 1994 nuclear accord, resulting in a breakdown that has taken several years to repair. Gale International’s belief in Korea’s future, however, was unshakable.
Since 2001, South Korea has made enormous progress on many fronts. The country has fully emerged from the 1998 financial crisis to become the tenth largest economy in the world. The Incheon International Airport was recently rated as best in the world with one of the world’s largest passenger and cargo volumes, and a second bridge that will lead to the door of Songdo by early 2009 is well underway. Gale International has moved development along with several important projects under construction and a major foreign direct investment commitment from Morgan Stanley.
My participation in several recent diplomatic forums has assured me further. On March 5, a small working group meeting at the Korea Society in New York organized in conjunction with The National Committee on American Foreign Policy discussed a range of bilateral issues related to the peace talks. At this meeting, Henry A. Kissinger, Madeleine K. Albright, select diplomats, interested citizens and myself were privileged to hear a first-person account of the talks by a North Korean delegation led by Vice Minister Kim Gye-gwan. I also attended a briefing on March 6 by Christopher R. Hill, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, who leads the U.S. delegation at the six-party talks. These briefings bolstered my already considerable optimism about the economic and political future of the Korean Peninsula, and furthered my desire to contribute to these positive developments. Gale International’s commitment to Korea and Songdo is for the long haul. At this historic juncture, we are proud to be part of a project that embodies so many national goals of the Korean people.
Stanley C. Gale, chairman and managing partner, Gale International