KKR, Korean Partners Buy South Korea Office Tower

A Korean REIT sold the Namsan Square, an 807,300-square-foot highrise located in the central business district of Seoul.
Namsan Square. Image via Google Street View

KKR continues to bolster its portfolio in South Korea with the joint venture acquisition of Namsan Square, an approximately 807,300-square-foot office property in Seoul. The New York-based global investment firm partnered with IGIS Asset Management and SK D&D, both of Korea, on the purchase of the asset from a REIT operated by Korea-based domestic asset manager KOREIT.

Namsan Square, formally known as Kukdong Building, sits at the entrance of Seoul’s central business district and is considered one of the preeminent commercial buildings in the city. The 23-story tower first opened its doors to tenants in 1978 and has since maintained its status as a premier office destination through a series of renovations. The LEED Gold-certified property also features a retail arcade. The partners plan to further enhance Namsan Square through additional upgrades to the building façade, the retail space and other areas.

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With the purchase of Namsan Square, KKR, which makes its investments from its real estate fund, has completed four acquisitions in South Korea. “Korea is a focus market for KKR across asset classes, and we are always exploring investment opportunities in Korea across sectors,” a KKR spokesperson told Commercial Property Executive. “To date, our investments in the market include real estate opportunities like K Twin Towers, Incheon Logistics Center and Renaissance Parc redevelopment.”

At the beginning of 2019, KKR had held the distinction of being the top foreign investor in Korea by transaction volume for five years, according to a report by Colliers International. The company made its debut in the market in 2014 with the joint venture acquisition of K Twin Towers, which the company sold in 2018 for a whopping $664.7 million.

Solid Foreign Interest in Seoul

Over the last several years, Seoul has had an increasingly prominent place on foreign investors’ radar. “In the first half of 2019, cross-border acquisitions accounted for 33 percent of the dollar value of deals, double the rate of international participation in Tokyo and triple that of Hong Kong,” according to PwC and the Urban Land Institute’s Emerging Trends in Real Estate Asia Pacific 2020 report.

Other U.S. companies that have been making a splash in Seoul over recent years include M&G Real Estate, a division of insurance leader Prudential, which acquired the Centropolis Towers office complex for $1 billion in 2018. Among the Blackstone Group’s list of recent purchases in metropolitan Seoul is the 1.7 million-square-foot Starfield Hanam, the largest western-style shopping center in South Korea. Blackstone purchased a 50 percent stake in the property for $300 million in September 2019.