SEOUL -- Merrill Lynch International Inc. said it has obtained permission from the Korean Ministry of Finance to upgrade its Seoul representative office into a full-fledged branch.

Merrill brings to six the number of foreign securities houses with branches, including two affiliates of U.S. banks: Citicorp Scrimgeour Vickers and Bankers Trust International.

South Korea opened its stock market to limited direct foreign investment last Jan. 3. A ministry official said it expects 10 foreign securities houses to be operating as full branches by yearend.

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