Overcrowding taxes Seoul facilities

The staff of the Hanyang Corporation have only to look out of their office windows to see one of the major sources of company profit. The company, a giant of the Korean construction industry, is headquartered south of the Han River, at the heart of a sprawling estate of look-alike high rise apartment blocks built in the last few years as part of a government program to solve overcrowding in the capital of Seoul.

With more than 8 million inhabitants -- at least one-fifth of the total population -- the city is bursting its seams.

A number of businesses, as well as some government offices, are now sited on the southern bank of the Han River as government planners seek to ease the strains on the capital's overloaded transportation system and utilities.

Many of the new buildings bear the mark of Hanyang Corporation, prompting senior vice-president Choo Sang Kook to boast that "despite the business recession in the past couple of years, we have been able to have a positive impact on the economy."

And, as the government seeks ways to get the economy back on the track of high growth, Mr. Choo says: "It should use the construction industry as its main motivating force."

Hanyang last year reported sales of $654 million, a result that depended heavily on the company's role in Middle East construction projects.

This year, sales are projected to rise to $815 million, with 40 percent contributed by the domestic sector.

As part of an economic stabilization program, the government wants to see 5 million new homes built over the next few years, primarily for low-income families.

The housing project will get under way this year with between 250,000 and 300 ,000 housing starts.

As a housing specialist, Hanyang expects to build the lion's share.

The government is also speeding up public works project as a means of injecting more cash into the deflated economy. Again, Hanyang expects to play a leading role.

This will include new supermarkets and market centers as part of a plan to simplify distribution channels to wipe out the chances of extra profit between supplier and end user.

Local construction firms have been bolstered by a government move to permit joint ventures with foreign interests in the housing sector.

Hanyang and several other companies have begun looking for partners who have the technology to meet the government's desire for further industrialization of the housing sector, particularly in the development of modular fabrications for low-cost homes -- overcoming a situation in the past few years when a real estate boom put home ownership beyond the reach of millions of Koreans.

A 15-member mission from top Korean firms visited Europe early in 1981 to look at the state of housing construction, and came back convinced Denmark offers the best opportunity for technological and capital tie-ups right now.

This could spill over into collaboration in Middle East construction projects , in which Denmark has the desired technical know-how to win orders but suffers from lack of a labor forc e (abundant in Korea).

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