Om Sai Ram

Om Sai Ram

Monday, September 27, 2010

Interview: Mr. Jeremy Stewardson, Executive Director, ANREV

The Asian Association for Investors in Non-listed Real Estate Vehicles (ANREV) is the sister organisation to INREV in Europe. It seeks to generate increased levels of liquidity within the Asian private real estate fund market through promoting greater transparency, accessibility, professionalism and standards of best practice. As a regional body, it strives to provide a platform for the sharing and dissemination on the non-listed real estate fund market.
ANREV now has 57 member companies in eight countries. ANREV’s agenda is driven by the members, in particular the investors, and is focused on improving transparency and accessibility of market information, promoting professionalism and best practices, sharing and spreading knowledge.
The objectives are being achieved through implementing research projects such as the Investment Intentions Asia Survey, an Asian vehicles database as well as through promoting industry standards and sharing best practice through regular events.
ANREV membership is dominated by Institutional Investors and supported by fund managers, investment banks and other real estate market participants.
In January this year, Mr. Jeremy Stewardson was appointed as Executive Director of the Association. He has held various senior positions in the Asian and European commercial real estate markets, since starting with Jones Lang Wootton in Hong Kong in 1978. After 23 years with the international property consultancy in it’s Hong Kong, London, Berlin, Frankfurt and Bangkok offices, he undertook a number of Asian commercial property roles, latterly as Chief Executive of the managers of Champion REIT, Hong Kong’s second largest Trust. Mr. Stewardson is a Fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.
Excerpts of interview:
>>ANREV is a non-profit association of institutional investors in private property funds . It draws it’s membership from Pension Funds , Insurance companies , Sovereign funds and Family offices , their Fund Managers and Service Providers . It is related to INREV in Europe . It’s members get together to transfer industry knowledge and best practice – all this with the aim of improving transparency in the global industry and hence accessibility for further investors .
>>For us , Korea is one of the key Asian markets . Along with Australia , Japan, Hongkong and Singapore , it has become an important pension fund and insurance industry participant . To ensure sustainable investment return levels , the Korean industry is now looking to overseas property markets as well as it’s own , just as the Dutch industry did 25 years ago . By the same token , other global pension and insurance industries are diversifying into the Korean market .
So our role is to contribute to improving communications , understanding and standards in global markets for our members , to facilitate sustainable cross-border investment accessibility .
>>There are 3 legs to our Associations out put . Firstly, Research: we research our industry , the participants , the products , the volumes ,the flows and the issues and feed the analysed results back to our members . We will be launching our on-line database of non-listed property funds in Asia later this year – this database is being developed along the lines of the INREV database in Europe .
Secondly : best practice standards . We promulgate the INREV-produced Guidelines for Fund establishment and management around Asia Pacific , with supplements being produced to reflect different circumstances in the individual markets. We will be providing Implementation Workshops for members next year .
Thirdly : communications . We hold Roundtables, Briefings and Workshops on strategic and technical issues facing our industry in Australia, Japan , Hongkong and Singapore – Korea is being added to this circuit.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Interview: Mr. David Martin, Head of Retail, Commercial Property,Hongkong Land Ltd.

Founded in 1889, Hongkong Land has interests across the Asian region. In Hong Kong, the Group owns and manages some five million sq. ft of prime commercial space that defines the heart of the Central Business District. In Singapore, it is helping to create the city-state's new Central Business District with the expansion of its joint venture portfolio of new developments. Hongkong Land's properties in these and other Asian centres are recognised as market leaders and house the world's foremost financial, business and luxury retail names.
Hongkong Land also develops premium residential properties in a number of cities in the
region, not least in Singapore where its 77%-owned listed affiliate, MCL Land, is a
significant developer.
Hongkong Land Holdings Limited is incorporated in Bermuda. It has a premium listing on
the London Stock Exchange, and secondary listings in Bermuda and Singapore. The Group's
assets and investments are managed from Hong Kong by Hongkong Land Limited. The company is a member of the Jardine Matheson Group.
As noted by Mr. David Martin, Head of Retail, Commercial Property,Hongkong Land Ltd., besides Hong Kong and Singapore, the company has also subtantial interest in expanding its operations in mainland Chinsa and other parts of Southeast Asia.
“The company has a very narrow focus, being interested only in high-end retail and office sites. For this reason, while we have been looking for opportunities in Seoul which is a very interesting market. All our major tenants operate in Korea. Furthermore the luxury brands market is huge, as also the financial institutions. Hopefully, we will invest soon,he said.
Within the overall commercial property portfolio of the company, retail accounts for a 20 percent, both in value and space. Specifically in Hong Kong, the share of both the retail and office space is even, he said.
Mr. Martin noted that the retail market has a huge potential in mainland China. HLL is interested in Beijing, Shanghai and other cities, but is facing difficulty in finding key sites which are generally expensive, political and in demand.
“In Hong Kong, we are hugely helped by the massive increase in mainland visitors in the past 5 years. There is growing prosperity in China and the peoples ability to shop has increased with rising incomes. This has helped the retail business and office space. Morover, many Russian and other international companies are also investing in Hong Kong, which is a very positive development.”
Speaking on HLL's performance in the first half of this year, he noted that despite ongoing economic uncertainties, demand for office and retail space in Hong Kong's Central district in the first half of 2010 was relatively robust. In addition, the Group recognised significant profits from two of its Singapore residential projects, Marina Bay Residences and Waterfall Gardens, upon their completion.
Vacancy in the Group's office portfolio in Hong Kong stood at 4.2% at 30th June 2010.
Average rents remained stable and rent reversions were largely neutral. The retail portfolio
in the Central district was fully leased.
In Singapore, there was growing demand from financial service companies for quality office
space in Marina Bay. As a result, achieved rents were relatively firm despite the new supply
of commercial space being built. Construction of the Group's joint venture development,
Marina Bay Financial Centre, continued on schedule. The first office tower is now
completed with the second due by the year end. Both towers, which comprise a total lettable
area of 159,000 sq. m., are almost fully let. Construction of a 122,000 sq. m. third tower is
underway with completion expected in 2012, of which 55% is already committed.
Marina Bay Financial Center, Singapore's first mixed-use development that successfully integrates residential, business, retail and entertainment facilities, will be fully completed in 2012. Those in the area will not only have the convenience of having 176,000 square feet of retail space at their doorsteps, they will also enjoy MBFC's connectivity, with direct access to two MRT stations via the subterranean mall. In addition, the mall offers tenants an immediate
patronage of 64,000 residents and professionals living and working within the MBFC
vicinity.
The second residential tower of the Marina Bay project, Marina Bay Suites, which will be
completed in late 2013, is selling well with almost 60% of the 221 units sold.
MBFC is being developed by a joint venture Cheung Kong (Holdings) Ltd/Hutchison Whampoa, Hongkong Land and Keppel Land, and managed by Raffles Quay Asset Management (RQAM). The tenant-centric design of this purpose-built financial centre combines the best in form and function, making it a key draw for businesses and befitting Singapore's position as a global financial hub.
MBFC offers a breathtaking blend of three distinguished office towers with nearly 3 million sq ft of Grade A office space, two residential towers comprising 649 luxury apartments and penthouses as well as approximately 176,000 sq ft of retail space to meet the daily convenience of our business community and residents.
MBFC achieved the Green Mark Gold for its office towers 1 & 2, Marina Bay Residences and Marina Bay Suites and the Green Mark Gold Plus for its office tower 3 conferred by the Building and Construction Authority of Singapore. This award recognizes the efforts made by the developers to encourage sustainable design practices, and makes MBFC one of the few developments to win more than one BCA Green Mark award.
The Group's joint venture in Jakarta commenced construction of a 61,000 sq. m., 30-storey
tower within its existing office development in the city, due for completion in 2012.
He noted that the contribution from residential property was significant during the period. The launch in February of MCL Land's project, The Estuary, was well received and all 608 units have been pre-sold. During the period, MCL Land acquired an additional site for future development.
The Serenade in Hong Kong is due to complete in the second half of the year, and
approximately a third of the apartments were sold by the end of June. The profit arising on
sale of apartments in Tower 4 of the 47%-held One Central Macau will also be recognized in
the second half. The Group has announced the launch of 92 branded apartments to be sold in
One Central Macau, which will be managed by Mandarin Oriental following the opening of
its 213-room hotel in late June.
The One Central Macau, is a groundbreaking mixed-used project for the city combining luxury residential, hotel, serviced apartment and retail facilities on a sprawling waterfront site in the scenic Nape Area.
The opening launched a new era in Macau's shopping scene as international brands opened the doors to their luxury duplex and triplex shops, all of which provide discerning shoppers in Macau with the same convenience and quality they have come to expect from CENTRAL ine Hong Kong and other fashion capitals such as New York and Paris. The list of tenants at One Central Macau includes brands like Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Gucci, Fendi, Ermenegildo Zegna, Dolce & Gabbana, Dior, Cartier, Bvlgari and Burberry, among many others. Many have opened their first, largest or flagship stores in the 400,000-square-foot, three-level shopping mall. The 200,000-square-foot site is uniquely positioned in the heart of the city on Nam Van Lake.
With a full panoramic view of the waterfront, One Central Macau comprises seven residential blocks of 32 to 38 storeys each as well as an iconic tower designed by world-famous architect Kohn Pedersen Fox, which houses the Mandarin Oriental, Macau and the most unique serviced apartments in the city. In addition to the architecturally innovative mall's prime waterfront location and impeccable list of tenants, One Central Macau is also directly linked to the MGM GRAND Macau, already an award-winning lifestyle destination.
“One Central Macau will offer shoppers the ultimate retail and lifestyle experience, with access to entertainment, fine dining, upscale residential buildings, the Mandarin Oriental Hotel and Serviced Apartments, and leading lifestyle and gaming destination MGM GRAND Macau,he said.
Another phase of the joint venture development Bamboo Grove in Chongqing comprising
261 townhouses, all but two of which have been sold, is scheduled for completion later this
year. A further 427 units, including high rise apartments to be completed in later years, were
released to the market and 254 had been sold by the end of June. In Beijing, sales continued
at Maple Place, while development work on the Group's other projects continued. Recent
government measures to dampen the market have led to reduced sales throughout the
country.
Mr. Martin noted that during the rest of the year, Hong Kong and Singapore commercial property markets should remain stable. The second half result will benefit from the completion of additional residential units although the contribution will be less than in the first half with no significant completions in Singapore.

Interview: Mr. Oh Byung-don, Mayor of Icheon City

Located in the South-Eastern part of Gyeonggi-do, Icheon has naturally developed good plains and hilly areas of Bokhacheon and Cheongmicheon due to the Namhan River tributary.
The east-west Yeongdong Highway intersects with the center of the north-south highway. It is accessible from all directions by crossing national road 3, that connects from Seoul to Chungju, and national road 42, that connects Suwon with Yeoju, so it has a good base for manufacuting.
Also Icheon has the best quality rice in the world, peaches, which are especially big, white & sweet, soil & fire and traditional ceramic ware which has its own eternal life and the artistic spirit of craftsmen. It is also the original place of ceramic ware of the world's ceramic art, natural hot springs that fly up by the folding screen of Mt. Seolbong and Mt. Dodram and the guardian mountains of Icheon, are combined with high-tech industry, the countryside, tourism and leisure.
In an exclusive interview, Mr. oh Byung-don, Mayor of Icheon City outlines the significance of the place.
>>Icheon City features various cultural colors as well as a long history in all fields that dates back to the prehistoric times. Such fields include the political, economic, social, and cultural areas.
It belonged to Baekje (ancient kingdom located in southwest Korea) in the early three kingdom era. It became a part of Goguryeo (ancient Korean kingdom) in 475 (63rd year of King Jangsu, the 26th king of Goguryeo) and was named Namcheon-hyeon.
King Jinheung, the 24th king of the Shilla Dynasty, placed the monarch in Namcheon-ju (where the provincial government building is located today). In 936, the first emperor of Goryeo entitled the city to Later Baekje Namjeong-si (city) Icheon-gun (county).
In 1444, the 26th year of King Sejong, the city became a dohobu (local administrative body). In 1914, most of Eumjuk-gun was absorbed into Icheon-gun. On March 1, 1996, Icheon-gun was promoted to Icheon-si.
In terms of historical significance, there was a fight over the Han River basin in the three kingdom era and Icheon was at the center of the fight.
Icheon is home to many stone pagodas and stone Buddhas including the Yeongwolam-maaeyeorae-ipsang (standing status). It is a rich repository of Buddhist cultural heritage, including the Maitreya.
Six scholars who left for the countryside after Gimyo sahwa (the calamity of literati) during the Joseon Dynasty, including Kim An-guk, gathered in the area to engage in academic exchange and gave more depth to Joseon's Neo-Confucianism.
>>The vision of Icheon City is to build Icheon, a city of happiness that stands by the side of its citizens. My dream as well as the dream of Icheon citizens is to realize this vision, and to build a planned city with a population of 350 thousand.
I would like to first of all say that I will make strenuous efforts to realize this dream.
First of all, I will do my best in implementing the land development project of Majang District as well as the project involved with building a small new city that will serve as an administrative town in Joongri District. This is a key project that will bring about substantial changes in the history of development of Icheon and for which an administrative process is underway. Strenuous efforts will be made so that these projects result in a luxurious residential space.
Ten small industrial complexes, including an industrial complex in Jinam-ri, Janghowon-eup, were built as a niche strategy that overcomes regulations on metropolitan area natural preservation zones that were introduced by the fourth mayor elected by popular vote. An additional ten small industrial complexes will be built to attract 300 companies, thereby taking the lead in creating jobs and promoting the local economy.
In addition, prestigious, self-governing private high schools will be established to train local experts and the city itself will be redesigned by continually executing high-quality cultural and art activities through the Icheon Art Hall, which is being successfully operated.
>>Located less than an hour away from Seoul, the nation's capital, Icheon is an important traffic center where the Yeongdong Expressway and Jungbu Expressway meet. Icheon is about an hour away from other key cities as well including Gangwon Province and Chungcheong Province.
Thanks to its fertile soil and the developed hills and plains, Icheon offers excellent quality crops, including rice and peach. It is known for its warm-hearted and generous citizens, who unite in times of difficulty.
Icheon is home to such famous mountains as Mt. Seolbong, Mt. Wonjeok, and Mt. Noseong, and is where Cheongmi Stream and Bokha Stream, a tributary of the Namhan River, flow. The city thus has in place excellent conditions for citizens to live in and also good conditions to do business in.
Icheon City is a pleasant green city, where there exists an affluent agricultural life and a comfortable city life based on cutting-edge industries. It is a green city where citizens can enjoy high-quality culture and tourism activities in addition to outstanding specialty products.
>>As a leading city in Korea in terms of the ceramics culture, Icheon is leading trends in modern ceramics and has a rich history in the field of ceramics. It is home to well-known craftsmen such as master artisans, Icheon ceramics masters, and young, leading ceramists of Korea. It is a leading ceramics city in Korea with a complete personnel and material infrastructure such as the Icheon World Ceramic Center and Haegang Ceramics Museum.
Icheon City applied to become a member of UNESCO's Creative Cities Network in the field of crafts in order to widely publicize the city's outstanding cultural assets and to further strengthen its competitiveness. On July 20, it became the first in Korea to become a part of the network.
I believe the designation of Icheon was an extremely significant event that enhanced the city's reputation and the value of the city brand to the global level. It also proves that the cultural assets and competencies of Icheon have gained international recognition.
What is extremely encouraging is that Icheon citizens now feel a greater sense of pride and self-esteem as global cultural citizens.
Considering that UNESCO is a world-renowned organization, I believe people all across the globe will develop an entirely new view of Icheon.
By effectively leveraging Icheon's change in status, I will actively launch PR activities so that Icheon's cultural and tourism industry develops with greater speed.
>>A great number of ceramists moved to Icheon after the middle of the Joseon Dynasty period and gave birth to Korea's ceramics culture. Even now, there is a ceramics village called 'Sagimakgol' in the Saeum-dong area of Icheon.
Icheon has grown into a leader of the nation's ceramics culture. In June 2005, it was designated as a special ceramics district, thus becoming a widely-recognized, leading ceramics city of the nation.
In fact, ceramics is Icheon's indisputable No. 1 brand, so much so that people think of ceramics first when they hear the word Icheon. We are attempting to transform Icheon into a global tourist spot by more systematically and efficiently managing this brand. We are expediting the process of building the Icheon Ceramic Art Village, which involves gathering kilns that are located throughout Icheon to a single area.
In addition to resources that Icheon has had for a long time such as hot springs, ceramics, and specialty products, Icheon is developing cultural and tourism resources by effectively leveraging local conditions. The city is further strengthening the establishment of a cultural and tourism foundation by leveraging its strengths as a city located close to large cities. For example, it is moving forward with the establishment of a Ceramic Art Village, Agricultural Theme Park, Woongjin Children's Village, Baeksa Sansuyu Flower Experience Village, and a tourism complex that connects Mt. Noseong with Seongho Lake.
Icheon is increasing its reputation as a leading cultural city by holding culture and art festivals throughout the year whose themes include the Sansuyu flower, ceramics, peach, and rice, in addition to the International Sculpture Symposium in Icheon and Icheon Chunsafilm Festival. Icheon also houses the Woljeon Museum of Art Icheon and Icheon Art Hall, which further upgraded the cultural life of citizens.
>>What I believe is most important from the perspective of foreigners living in Icheon is the establishment of an environment that allows foreigners to live in harmony with the residents.
In this sense, there is a need for a project that involves joining hands with foreigners to develop policies that are closely related to foreigners' daily lives. Icheon is already implementing such a project through the Multi-cultural Center.
There is also a need for continuous and smooth execution of foreigner support services. For example, there is a need to provide administrative services or handle a wide variety of civil complaints from the perspective of foreigners and to develop multi-language information services.
As mentioned before, Icheon became the first in Korea to become a part of UNESCO's Creative Cities Network. The city will do justice to its reputation and strive to establish an advanced social integration atmosphere between foreigners and Icheon citizens.
Recently you hosted the Icheon Ceramic festival. Could you give us more details of this festival and the outcome?
The Icheon Ceramic Festival was first launched in 1987 and was held for the 24th time this year. It has developed every year, with its cumulative number of visitors exceeding 23 million. It is a leading traditional culture experience festival of Korea.
The whole family can make ceramics and experience the value and beauty of traditional Korean ceramics by taking part in a wide array of experiential, sales, and traveling programs as well as exhibitions. It is also a leading festival of Icheon that has developed into a leading icon that publicizes Korea's ceramics industry and culture throughout the world.
The Icheon Ceramic Festival was originally a part of the Solbong Cultural Festival. It continuously developed after its selection in 1998 as one of the five festivals to receive focused support by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism. In 2001, the 2001 World Ceramic Expo, the 1st World Ceramic Biennale, was held. It continued to advance forward to generate economic effects totaling 330.1 billion won in 2009, thus fully establishing itself as a leading ceramics culture festival in Korea.
The 24th Icheon Ceramic Festival was held at Seolbong Park in Icheon for 23 days from April 24 through May 16. Based on the theme 'Joyful Ceramic Trip to Icheon', the festival continued its reputation as Korea's leading ceramics festival.
The festival was assessed as providing an arena for experiencing traditional Korean ceramics by combining ceramics experience programs, design exhibitions, and events in addition to featuring a wide variety programs such as an exhibition of high-quality ceramics.
>>Icheon City is implementing various administrative support systems. An example is the creation of a taskforce team together with Gyeonggi Province to attract investments from foreign companies. The team is in charge of attracting foreign capital and is participated in by the Korea Land & Housing Corporation and Korea Electric Power Corporation.
When a foreign company wants to make an investment, Icheon helps the foreign company purchase land such as by designating a foreigner investment area pursuant to the Foreign Investment Promotion Act. It is also providing financial support to partially pay for costs incurred from setting up base facilities such as water facilities and building roads that enable easy access to national highways or subways.
Icheon also offers various tax reduction and exemption benefits such as for taxes related to the acquisition of land, including the acquisition tax, registration tax, and transfer income tax, pursuant to the Foreign Investment Promotion Act and Restriction of Special Taxation Act.
Icheon has various support systems in place, such as providing employment insurance and training subsidies in cash for a certain period when a company hires more than 20 persons based on Gyeonggi Province's investment incentive system. The city is also helping companies set up signs on expressways and national highways.
>>My plan is to focus on attracting cutting-edge business sectors related to electricity and electronics as well as R&D centers and culture and tourism-related industries such as theme parks.
>>Location conditions are an important factor in creating a good environment to do business in, but I believe a more important factor is removing 'invisible barriers' to corporate activities. This is why I set up a department at Icheon City Government to be mainly in charge of corporate support.
Icheon also has the 'public servant-company guardianship system', which involves establishing one-on-one guardian relations between a public servant and a small or mid-sized company in Icheon that has at least five employees and regularly monitoring the company's difficulties.
Difficulties experienced by companies are mostly related to receiving loans to be used as business funds, increasing the number of plants, and building an infrastructure, such as improving access roads. Icheon earmarked a budget of 1.4 billion won to implement corporate environment improvement projects last year such as to improve access roads located near companies. A total of ten projects were executed to improve the environment for 44 companies.
There is also the 'corporate field mobility team', which makes efforts to help companies with an open attitude.
Icheon City is a pleasant green city, where there exists an affluent agricultural life and a comfortable city life based on cutting-edge industries. Icheon is waiting for investors and entrepreneurs.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Interview: Mr. Lee Kwi-nam, Minister of Justice

The Ministry of Justice serves the citizens by guarding and enforcing the Constitution and laws of the Republic. In addition to rendering legal advice to the President, Prime Minister, and other ministries, MOJ supervises the prosecution. It is also in charge of correctional and rehabilitative administration and immigration. In what should be of more interest to foreign investors, it is responsible for Policies with respect to an Investment-Friendly Legal Environment. I interviewed him to learn more about the policies and plans on this front.
Excerpts:
>>The vision of the Ministry of Justice is to bring about a happy nation with an advanced rule of law. To realize this vision, we are pushing ahead with the following priorities. First, in order to create a transparent society, we are promoting establishment of law and order that is commensurate with Korea's standing in the international community and (2) enhancement of the nation's credibility through prevention of corruption. Second, in order to create a safe society, we are promoting (3) protection of citizens from violent crime and (4) prevention of repeated crimes through support for criminal rehabilitation. Finally, in order to achieve more open administration of judicial affairs, we are promoting (5) implementation of open and harmonious policies for aliens and (6) construction of advanced infrastructure for judicial affairs administration.
>>Last February, in order to simplify the invitation process for long-term visitors, such as for employment of skilled foreign talents, the Ministry of Justice opened the visa-application process to online application for certificate for confirmation of visa issuance through HuNet Korea (www.visa.go.kr), an internet-based visa application system. Furthermore, we shortened the time it takes to issue a visa by exempting the submission of corporate-related documents such as business license, employment contract, and personal reference.
In May 2010, we also streamlined the invitation process for short-term visitors, such as for foreign corporate buyers. This procedural simplification allows issuance of short-term business visa (C-2) for a foreigner with short-term business purpose based on no other requirement than a company-issued invitation and grants up to 90 days for the visit.
The Ministry of Justice will further strengthen its continuous efforts to improve the immigration system so that 36,000 skilled foreign talents, such as professors or researchers, as well as 9,000 foreign investors currently residing in Korea can live and do businesses more conveniently.
>>We must admit that Korea had been conservative in its recognition of refugee status, underscored by the statistics that only two refugees were recognized as such in ten years from the ratification of the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees in 1992; moreover, Korea has had many shortcomings with regard to refugee status recognition process or support policies. Nevertheless, the number of refugee seekers has increased substantially in recent years, proportionally to the recent surge in Korea's national reputation in the global society, and this increase has necessitated a closer attention and a better care at the government-level.
The Ministry of Justice has recently implemented what we consider groundbreaking policies: we halved the evaluation period for refugee status from a year to six months; allowed the refugee seekers on long-term standbys to find employment, starting May 4th, 2010; and took action to enable refugee seekers to receive medical treatment and to be hospitalized at government-designated hospitals and up to 5 million won in medical bill support through collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Welfare since June 1st, 2010.
Particularly, as a result of a more proactive refugee embracement policy implemented to live up to Korea's international status enhanced by the imminent G-20 Seoul Summit, Korea has recognized a total of 205 refugees and has granted 130 cases of temporary resident status on humanitarian grounds as of August, 2010. The number of refugees recognized during the last three years accounts for approximately 75% of the total recognized refugees.
The Ministry of Justice will work to guarantee the procedural rights of refugee seekers to a speedy and fair evaluation. Furthermore, the Ministry will provide measures to support improvement of social treatment of recognized refugees and refugee seekers.
>>Korean law on nationality to date has received criticism for its failure to anticipate the international trend that increasingly permits dual citizenship by holding on to a single-nationality principle, exemplified by its practice of requesting proof for renunciation of foreign citizenship from foreigners that obtained Korean nationality and citizens born with multiple citizenships. It has also been pointed out that such Korean institution has created barriers for skilled talents and Koreans abroad with foreign nationality to obtain Korean nationality and even has induced adverse effects on population.
In order to reform the sixty-year old institution rigidly rooted in single-nationality principle, the Ministry of Justice submitted to the National Assembly the Amended Nationality Act, with allowance of multiple citizenships for citizens born with multiple citizenships as its major content, based on thorough discussions of the topic and public opinion gathered through public hearings.
This revised Nationality Act was passed in the National Assembly on April 21st this year and was proclaimed on the fourth of following May. It will be put in place in its entirety on the first of January 2011 while certain provisions are put into immediate effect at the proclamation.
Under this law, in case citizens born with multiple citizenships, migrants through international marriage, overseas Korean adoptees, elder overseas Koreans returning permanently, or foreign talents obtain or select Korean nationality, they are permitted to hold de facto multiple citizenships as they are required to take an oath of foreign citizenship nonuser instead of having to provide proof of foreign citizenship renunciation.
We aim to enhance national competitiveness through securing human resources, support social integration of newly naturalized citizens such as international marriage migrants, and better regard overseas Korean adoptees and elder overseas Koreans, through this reform while we also expect to see positive effects such as suppression of population net outflow.
>>In July 2010, the Ministry of Justice published and circulated the first volume of a quarterly English legal magazine titled Recent Trends of Law & Regulation in Korea: Focusing on Business and Investment.
This is the first English legal magazine that the government has published. The magazine carries articles on reasons and details of enactment and amendment of Acts related to company and investment, and case laws of the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court on such Acts. It also provides detailed information on intellectual property rights protection efforts and key policies for foreigners, such as immigration regulations, that the Ministry of Justice has spearheaded.
The Ministry of Justice plans to select various topics and legislations that may be helpful for foreign businesses and provide corresponding information both online and offline on a quarterly basis. So we encourage any interested party to take advantage of this content.
>>Maintenance of law and institution is the cornerstone for economic development and consequently serves as a foundation for a nation's effort to join the ranks of the advanced countries. Hence, the Ministry of Justice aims to continue its effort to maintain the law and order befitting the economic strength and national status of Korea through the hosting of the G-20 Seoul Summit, etc.
At such an important turning point, with the Korea-EU FTA expected to take effect sometime soon, we are ready to develop and implement policies that can contribute to the creation of a legal environment friendly to foreign investors.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Interview: Ms. Arlida Ariff, President & CEO, Iskandar Investment Berhad

Located in Johor, the southern gateway to Peninsular Malaysia, Iskandar Malaysia economic region is just six to eight hours flight radius from Asia's burgeoning growth centres such as Bangalore, Dubai, Hong Kong, Seoul, Shanghai, Taipei and Tokyo, and within reach of a global market of some 800 million people.
Accessible by air, land, rail and sea, it is flanked by three major ports, the Pasir Gudang Port, Port of Tanjung Pelepas and Tanjung Langsat Port. Because of its strategic location, accessibility to leading Asian cities, proximity to some of the world's most rapidly growing and important economies, and a range of attractive fiscal incentives, Iskandar Malaysia is poised to attract an exciting influx of foreign and high-level corporate investments as discerning investors look to benefit from its many advantages and high growth potential.
The special economic zone grew out of a 2005 government requested feasibility study by the Khazanah Nasional which found that the development of such a zone would be economically, socially and developmentally beneficial.
The National SJER Planning Committee (NSPC), hearing Khazanah's findings, put it in charge of developing a sustainable, holistic approach to development in the region. Iskandar Malaysia was singled out as among the high-impact developments of the Ninth Malaysia Plan, put into action by the Prime Minister of Malaysia in March 2006 to cover the period of 2006 to 2010. In November 2006, the Prime Minister, Chief Minister of Johor, Abdul Ghani Othman and Khazanah revealed the Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP).
Under the plan, five "Flagship Zones" in the 221,634.1 hectares (2,216.3 kmイ) of land covered are identified as developmental focal points. Four of these Flagship Zones are found in the "Special Economic Corridor" (SEC) of Nusajaya-Johor Bahru-Pasir Gudang. The corridor謡hich includes the significant ports of Tanjung Pelepas, Pasir Gudang, and Tanjung Langsatis prioritized for development in the CDP, with particular focus on Nusajaya.
Johur Bahru City Centre is Flagship Zone A, including development of a new financial district, the central business district, the waterfront city of Danga Bay, a mixed development in Tebrau Plentong and the Malaysia/Singapore Causeway.
Flagship Zone B is Nusajaya, with planned development of the new Johor state administrative centre, a medical hub, an "educity", a resort for international tourism and an industrial logistic cluster and Residence Horizon Hills, Bukit Indah.
Flagship Zone C, the Western Gate Development, focuses on the Port of Tanjung Pelepas (PTP), providing a second transportation link for Malaysia/Singapore, a free trade zone, the RAMSAR World Heritage Park and the Tanjung Piai.
Flagship Zone D, the Eastern Gate Development, focuses on the Pasir Gudang Port and industrial zone, Tanjung Langsat Port, the Tanjung Langsat Technology Park and the Kim-Kim regional distribution centre. In the final Flagship Zone, Senai-Skudai, development is focused on the Senai International Airport, hubs for cargo and knowledge, a multimodal centre and the MSC Cyberport city.
Due for completion in 2025, the mega-development project has been in its planning and mobilization stages for the past two years and is now in its Catalytic Development stage.
Much of the kudos for its success goes to Iskandar Investment Berhad (IIB), an investment holding company working in close partnership with the Iskandar Regional Development Authority to drive investment into Iskandar Malaysia.
IIB promotes and coordinates development to support Iskandar Malaysia. As a catalytic player in part of Iskandar Malaysia's infrastructure projects, IIB's primary goal is to seek world-class investors to bring best practice to the development.
As noted by Ms. Arlida Ariff, President & CEO, IIB develops residential, commercial, and mixed projects in Iskandar Malaysia. It also develops waterfront projects, including residences, resorts, entertainment venues, waterfront amenities, shopping centers, hotels, office suites, and multi-modal and mixed-use ferry terminals.
Formerly known as South Joho Investment Corporation Berhad, the company was founded in 2006 and is based in Johor Bahru, Malaysia with additional offices in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.
“Our vision is to be the catalytic driver of the mega-project and achieve this by investing in selected strategic initiatives as well as through the contribution of land through sale, lease, granting of concessions or development rights.”
She noted that since the end of 2006, IIB has lured over 60 billion ringgit worth of investment from local and foreign investors, exceeding its own target of 47 billion. The region has nearly met its overall foreign direct invest target of $13bn for the phase ending in 2010. To date, collectively amongst all players in Iskandar Malaysia, more than $11bn, or 92%, has been invested.
Iskandar Investment began 2010 by announcing a feasibility study with Raffles Education Corporation Limited ('RafflesEducationCorp') to develop Raffles University Iskandar, a multiinstitutional education campus in EduCity, Iskandar Malaysia. RafflesEducationCorp is the largest private education provider in Asia Pacific.
#Other recent key milestones include:
- Construction of a 21.5-acre Stadium and Sports Complex which began in February will provide first-class sporting facilities for students and the community in Iskandar Malaysia.
- Construction will be completed in September 2011 in time for the opening of the Newcastle University Medical Malaysia (NUMed) campus.
- Agreement to establish Marlborough College Malaysia, the first international venture for the leading British independent, coeducational boarding school catering to the schooling needs of local and international students between the ages of five and 18. The campus is scheduled to open in September 2012
- Collaboration with WCT, a leading Malaysian construction and property development company, to jointly develop and co-own 1Medini, the first residential development in Medini. The condominium will be launched in mid-2010 with its first phase of 300 units ready by 2013
- Additionally, EduCity and Iskandar, the integrated education hub for Iskandar Malaysia, has also recently tied up with a world-class partner, Newcastle University of Medicine from the UK, to build its first branch campus by May 2011. The university has pledged more than $100m over 30 years to the development.
Ms. Ariff noted that IIB is looking for both foreign and local investors to contribute to the success of Iskandar.
As for the plans for this year, she said that the focus will be countries in Southeast Asia Singapore. Indonesia, China and India. Investors from these countries could become our partners in development projects or they could be buyers of our residential and commercial properties, or tenants for the retail project. We are keeping our options open.
We will still look at investors from Europe and the Middle East. Money can come from everywhere. We are a strategic developer and our main role is to drive commercial initiatives within the 2,217 sq km in Iskandar via joint venture or contribution of land. But, whatever investments we bring into Iskandar have to benefit the state and country.
She noted that the prospects are good in education, leisure, tourism and health services, especially education and health, as these are two segments that are least affected during an economic crisis.
“We have EduCity with institutions to cater for education needs from primary up to university level in the fields of medicine, hospitality, engineering and maritime. For leisure and tourism, there are Legoland in Medini and the Indoor Theme Park @ Puteri Harbour opening in 2012.
We hope to bring in new retail brands.”
“Apart from the property development, we are going to set up a unit this year to provide ancillary support services for property management, IT services, educational, tourism and environmental. We don稚 just want to develop a piece of land and hand over the project on completion. We want to ensure our projects are well maintained and managed in years to come, especially in 2012 when Legoland and NUMed @ EduCity are completed and operational.”
Iskandar Malaysia is fully supported by the federal government of Malaysia which will be offering special incentives to investors such as tax breaks, ease of talent recruitment, lifted foreign ownership restrictions and business facilitated though a regulatory authority.
The largest foreign investor so far has been Acerinox, of Spain, which is building a steel plant for 4.18 billion ringgit. Singaporean and Japanese investors have put up 3.03 billion ringgit and 2.98 billion ringgit respectively.
She attributed the increased investments to the infrastructure that have been developed as well as the strengthening economy and fiscal incentives such as a 10-year tax exemption in Medini in Iskandar Malaysia, besides the flexibility to recruit foreign talents.
To encourage early investment, the government is offering a range of incentives, including a 10-year exemption from corporate and withholding taxes and an indefinite suspension of Real Property Gains Tax, a levy on real estate capital gains imposed in January. The suspension alone could save investors between 5 percent to 20 percent of the chargeable gains from disposal of properties which would have been taxed otherwise.