Hundreds of Koreans are using the UAE as their base in the region
Korea and UAE will be century-long partners, says ambassador
What sets the UAE apart from its neighbouring oil producers is the fact that it does not depend on oil alone, according to the Korean ambassador to the UAE.
That has led hundreds of South Koreans to move to the Emirates to set up their base in the region.
“The late Sheikh Zayed introduced a political system espousing moderate Islamism and guaranteed free commercial activities, which helped attract the best minds of the Arab world,” Kang-ho Park said.
“As a result, approximately nine million of the country’s total population of 10 million are foreign nationals. As its population grew, the presence of global businesses followed and out of 196 Fortune 500 companies that have footholds to enter the Middle Eastern markets, more than 130 use the UAE as their outpost in the region. The number of Korean businesses that have settled in the UAE is no less than 170.”
Korea's winning of the contract to build nuclear reactors in Barakah was the country’s first nuclear contract abroad. “Building on this momentum, our two countries forged a strategic partnership and have further expanded the scope of co-operation into national defence, health care and medical services, public security and education,” he said.
“Our two countries have now cultivated an incomparably closer relationship than we did a decade ago. The UAE is now the largest importer of Korean-made goods among African and Middle Eastern countries. Along with Saudi Arabia, it is also one of the largest overseas construction markets for Korea.”
Seoul National University Hospital manages the Sheikh Khalifa Speciality Hospital in Ras Al Khaimah, where about 230 South Koreans work. Annually, more than 3,500 Emirati patients visit Korea for treatment at the government's expense.
In 2016, the first Korean Cultural Centre in the Gulf was also opened in Abu Dhabi. “The Korean community is growing continuously so that one of every two Korean residents in the Middle East are now living in the UAE,” Mr Park said. “In a nutshell, the country serves as a bridgehead for Korea's advance into the Middle East and the relationship between the two countries is expected to continue to develop further in the years to come.”
The UAE Government gearing up to foster next generation state-of-the-art industries is seen as a positive sign for Korea. “Through the recent Cabinet reshuffle, the UAE Government appointed talented individuals in their 20s and 30s from promising next-generation industries as ministers,” he said. “It is also preparing for Dubai Expo 2020 with an ambition to make it the biggest expo in history.”
Korea and the UAE have solidified the basis of co-operation for high-tech industries with DubaiSat-1 and DubaiSat-2, the UAE’s first science satellites, manufactured in Korea.
The third satellite, KhalifaSat, was partly built with Korean technology. “Bilateral co-operation will be in full swing in the months to come as an agreement on space co-operation was signed between the two countries last year,” he said.
“Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, mentioned Korea as a partner for a century many times.
“The upcoming visit to the UAE by Korean President Moon Jae-in is expected to be a valuable opportunity for bilateral relations to be enhanced a step further and developed into co-operation on future technology, building upon the achievements of the strategic partnership over the past 10 years.”