x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Mutual benefits as UAE and South Korea partnership prospers

Today's ceremony at the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant is another meaningful moment in the close relationship between the Republic of Korea and the UAE.

The site of the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant, where work on the plant's second unit is set to start. Philip Cheung / Crown Prince Court - Abu Dhabi
The site of the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant, where work on the plant's second unit is set to start. Philip Cheung / Crown Prince Court - Abu Dhabi

Today, the Republic of Korea and the United Arab Emirates break ground on another nuclear reactor in Abu Dhabi - the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant Unit 2. As the first minister of trade, industry and energy under South Korea's new government, it is my heartfelt honour to represent my government at the ceremony.

The occasion is particularly meaningful to me, having for some years directed bilateral cooperation projects between South Korea and the UAE, including the nuclear reactors at Barakah, as the presidential secretary in charge of industry and energy and as the vice minister of knowledge economy in the administration of the former president Lee Myung-bak.

December 27, 2009 was a historic day for both our nations. It was the day we announced the four reactors to be built jointly in Abu Dhabi. It was also significant in that we laid the foundations for bilateral cooperation through a friendship that will last for centuries.

Since that day, the nuclear power project has been carried out smoothly based on strong trust and mutually beneficial practices. A case in point is the groundbreaking ceremony for Barakah Unit 1, which was held last November with the leaders of both nations present. Now, the first steps are being taken to build Barakah Unit 2, while preparations for the others are under way.

The cooperation between our nations is gaining traction thanks in part to the determination of the South Korean president, Park Geun-hye, to strengthen it. Backing her up are the South Korean people, who gave her their enthusiastic support in last year's election.

By appointing me as the minister of trade, industry and energy - which includes, of course, nuclear power - and deciding to have me represent her government at the groundbreaking ceremony for Barakah Unit 2, she has shown her firm resolve to achieve more concrete cooperation with the UAE, which began under the previous administration as it looked ahead to the next 100 years.

The mutually beneficial cooperation between our two nations, which will continue for the next century, started with building nuclear power plants, but it is now spreading to so many other areas, from politics and the economy to culture and people-to-people exchanges.

South Korea is also participating in the development of oilfields in the UAE that will produce the Emirati oil so widely known for its high quality. Recently our governments agreed on a joint oil reserve project to store six million barrels of UAE oil in South Korea. This agreement provides the UAE with a strategic base for marketing its oil in north-east Asia and boosts South Korea's emergency supplies.

We are seeing vibrant exchanges in other areas, too, including renewable energy, semiconductors, personnel training, information and communications technology and health. We are even working together in defence; a South Korean special forces unit called Akh, which means "brother" in Arabic, is serving in Abu Dhabi to train the UAE's special forces.

With such an increase in the breadth and depth of our cooperation, I believe the time has come for us to take another big step forward in our relations as partners for the next century.

South Korea and the UAE share a common vision of a society based on knowledge and innovation and an economy that is competitive and resilient. Our countries have complementary industrial structures, and by sharing technology and experience, we can be ideal partners for inspiring future-oriented cooperation in business.

There are so many ways for South Korea and the UAE to create synergy by combining our strengths. For instance, we can take the capital and financial network of the UAE as a financial hub in the Middle East and combine it with Korean companies' world-class technology to channel investment into future-oriented industries and new technologies.

We can cooperate on large-scale projects in third countries using our experience building nuclear reactors together. Equally important is initiating more people-to-people exchanges and nurturing our workforces through education and training.

We recognise how much the UAE has contributed to South Korea's economic development through its stable supply of oil. South Korea stands ready to share with the UAE its know-how and its hard-earned lessons to help the UAE achieve its vision for the future through sustainable growth. I, too, am fully committed to using my experience and abilities to advance our bilateral cooperation not only in energy and resources but also in industry and trade.

The Middle East is widely regarded as a new pivot of global economic growth. No doubt, the UAE is a prime example. The rest of the world knows that despite the difficulties in the global economy, the UAE will not be stopped.

Long ago, wise Arab merchants would bring a trusted companion when embarking on a long and dangerous journey across the desert. As you look ahead on your journey, I am sure you will find at your side a true and dependable friend - the Republic of Korea.


Yoon Sang-jick is the Republic of Korea's minister of trade, industry and energy