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By Gemma Q. Casas

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, April 2) – The parent company of Asiana Airlines says it believes in Saipan’s potential to attract more tourists from South Korea and promises to bring in more investments here.

Kumho, which recently purchased Laolao Bay Golf Resort for an undisclosed price from United Micronesia Development Administration, said construction work on the 100 villas on the property will begin as soon as possible.

Sun Don Jhung, president of Laolao Bay Golf Resort (Saipan), said their firm will also build a club house and a tea house at the site.

He said Kumho is studying the possibility of getting involved in other businesses in the CNMI.

Hyunil Kim, Kumho Asiana Group’s general manager of the strategic management division, said the company decided to invest on Saipan rather than on Guam because the CNMI welcomes Kumho’s development plan.

"Guam is much developed. They may not welcome Kumho Asiana as a partner," said Kim in an interview Friday night. "We will try to bring in additional investments here," he added.

Asiana Airlines has been serving the Saipan route for 15 years now. Each year, the carrier incurs millions of dollars in losses but the carrier believes this trend is finally changing.

Gov. Benigno R. Fitial said the cash-strapped government will help Asiana in its business venture.

"I am very humbled because the Kumho Asiana Group delivered on their commitment to expand their presence in the Northern Marianas. For 15 years, Asiana Airlines has been losing millions but instead of following in Japan Airlines’ footsteps, they followed my footsteps," said Fitial in his speech at the dinner reception for Kumho, Asiana and UMDA.

"I will assist in any way I can to help Kumho Asiana not only to expand their businesses in the CNMI but to become profitable (as well)," he added.

The governor is scheduled to leave for Seoul, South Korea on April 12 upon the invitation of Kumho.

Kim said they plan to package the Northern Marianas as a "paradise" in the Pacific where Koreans can escape from chaotic city life.

He said the company wants to capitalize on the islands’ laid-back lifestyle and tourist attractions.

"(Saipan) is known among honeymooners and students. We want to build its image as a paradise. Like a second home for Koreans where they can escape from their busy daily lives. There are too many cars and too many people in Seoul. We want them to feel refreshed when they come here," said Kim.

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