ING Real Estate Investment Management has acquired a license to operate locally registered real estate funds in South Korea.

The firm has also appointed Mark Jun as senior vice-president for institutional sales in Seoul in order to beef up its sales and client service capability.

"South Korea has been a profitable market for us over the past few years," says Richard Price, Asia CEO in Hong Kong. "It is becoming the most significant market in the region in which to invest and raise capital."

ING RE, which manages $4.9 billion of Asian real estate public and private portfolios (as of March), already offers its global clients a variety of country products and regional strategies that include Korean assets. Korea accounted for nearly 30% of its regional portfolio at the start of the year, although that figure has been reduced to closer to 15%, partly because the portfolio managers have sold some of the Korean assets.

ING has been an active investor in the Korean real estate sector since 2004 when it acquired the portfolio of Rodamco, a Dutch real estate investment trust that had been the first foreign real estate manager to invest in Korea after the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98.

The license, granted by the Financial Supervisory Commission in Seoul, allows ING RE to manage capital onshore for both local and international clients. In particular, it can structure funds in Korea that provide tax advantages to international investors, as well as provide won-denominated but globally oriented products for local institutions.

"The big pools of Korean capital formation continue to grow," Price notes. He adds the firm continues to add to its ranks in Japan and China as well, where the firm intends to launch new product over the next few years.

Mark Jun takes on the new role after four years at ING Real Estate, also in Seoul. He has also worked at Deutsche Bank Real Estate and Korea Exchange Bank. He reports functionally to Eduard Wehry, head of institutional clients in Hong Kong, and locally to Brian Ahn, country manager.