General Motors Corp. has no plan to close any Daewoo Motor Co. operations if it acquires the ailing South Korean automaker, GM Chairman John F. Smith Jr. said Wednesday.

“We’re here to grow Daewoo. We feel very comfortable we can do that,” Smith said, commenting on local concerns about a foreign takeover of Daewoo.

GM and Ford Motor Co. are considered the front-runners in international bidding for Daewoo. Also taking part in the bidding are DaimlerChrysler AG [NYSE:DAJ], Fiat SpA of Italy and Hyundai Motor Co. of South Korea.

Daewoo’s creditors plan to choose two prime bidders by June and the successful bidder by September.

Daewoo workers have staged strikes to protest a possible takeover of Daewoo by a foreign carmaker, fearing that it would lead to mass layoffs.

Smith came to Seoul on Monday for a three-day visit which included a review of GM’s plan to take over Daewoo and a visit to an international motor show in Seoul to promote the sale of imported cars in South Korea.

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Smith said GM would run Daewoo Motor “as a Korean company, with its own brand.”

By taking over Daewoo, GM can strengthen its presence in Asia, which is expected to become the fastest growing auto market in the world.

Daewoo Motor is a unit of Daewoo Group, which collapsed under huge debts last year. It produced 758,500 vehicles in 1999 at its 17 facilities at home and abroad. At the end of last year, it had $18.3 billion in assets and $13.9 billion in debt.

The carmaker began as a joint venture with GM in 1978. GM sold its 50 percent stake to Daewoo for $170 million in 1992.