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North Korea looking for investments, from South, says business chief

Seoul

NORTH Korea has signalled that it wants to bring in investments from South Korean companies to help modernise the secluded country, said one of the business chiefs who went to Pyongyang last week.

Sohn Kyung Shik, the 79-year-old co-chairman of CJ Group and the head of the Korea Employers Federation, told Bloomberg Television's Shery Ahn in an interview that North Korea wants to have economic cooperation and technical assistance from the South. "What they really want are investments to set up industry there," he said.

The comments reflect the optimism that's trickling out in the wake of last week's summit between North Korea's Kim Jong Un and South Korea's Moon Jae-in.

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But many hurdles remain, as both countries are technically still at war and conducting business with North Korea is heavily restricted by United Nations sanctions.

Mr Sohn accompanied Mr Moon and was part of a South Korean business delegation that included Samsung Group vice-chairman Jay Y Lee and LG Group chairman Koo Kwang Mo, who met with the North's vice- premier Ri Ryong Nam, who's in charge of economic affairs.

Samsung's Mr Lee said then that he hoped the meeting would turn into an opportunity to build trust. "They really want to have economic cooperation with South Korea," Mr Sohn said. "But we didn't make any big commitments so far."

As to CJ, whose business ranges from foods to entertainment, the group sees opportunities in North Korea's food and logistics industries, Mr Sohn said.

Mr Moon and Mr Kim agreed last week to meet again so that the two Koreas can work on specifying steps towards denuclearisation and the resumption of economic projects such as the Mount Kumgang tours and the Gaeseong industrial park. BLOOMBERG