While South Korea’s economy is bouncing back, isolationist North Korea’s is in shambles, forcing its communist government to seek investment from the outside world, according to senior diplomatic officials in Atlanta last week.

North Korea’s economy has been in “a free fall” for five years and needs massive investment in all economic sectors including industrial parks, infrastructure and harbors, Hong-Koo Lee, South Korea’s ambassador to the U.S., said during a dinner held at the Swissôtel in Buckhead last week.

Mr. Lee and Stephen W. Bosworth, the U.S. ambassador to Korea, both participated in the “Korean Caravan,” a seminar about doing business in Korea. The event was held in Atlanta on April 10, the day following the announcement of the upcoming dialogue between the presidents of North and South Korea June 12-14.

The face-to-face meeting scheduled to be held in North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang, will be the first between presidents of the two governments since the Korean peninsula was divided into the communist North and the U.S.-backed South in 1945. Atlanta is one of five U.S. cities to be visited by the caravan, including Boston, Miami, New York and Philadelphia.

Meanwhile, South Korea’s economy offers opportunities “across the board” for U.S. companies, according to Mr. Bosworth. He said $24 billion of foreign direct investment had poured into the country during the past two years, an amount exceeding the total foreign direct investment there from 1960-1996.

“That gives you some idea of how much more open this economy has become,” he said, “and I think that American companies in particular have responded to this with enthusiasm,” especially high-tech and financial businesses.

According to Mr. Bosworth, only South Korea had “sufficient interest” at the moment to invest substantially in North Korea. Mr. Lee added only significant investment in North Korea would end the cold war between the two countries.

For more information about the program, call Jennifer Smallwood of the South Center for International Studies at (404) 261-5763.