x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

‘Win-win’ situation as Middle East-South Korea ties enter new era

South Korea's foreign minister talks of a booming new era of energy and education for his country and the Middle East.

SEOUL // Renewable and nuclear energy, educational exchanges and medical tourism will be at the forefront of a new era in relations between the Middle East and South Korea, the forum was told.

“Over the past few decades we have built and nurtured a relationship of a win-win structure,” Korean foreign minister Yun Byung-se told the 100 delegates.

“For Korea, the Middle East was the reliable partner that supplied energy so critical to its economic development.

“For the Middle East, Korea was the trustworthy and diligent partner that provided the skills and manpower needed for its modernisation and infrastructure development.

“However, it is time for us to recalibrate the character of our relationship so that we may elevate it to reflect the progress we have made over the years, to enable us to fulfil the potential to bring a more prosperous future.”

Mr Yun praised the work of the Middle East in preparing for a post-oil era with growth in areas such as renewable and nuclear energy, information technology, health and medical tourism.

He said a 2009 deal between the UAE and South Korea to build four nuclear reactors in Abu Dhabi was a highlight in progress, while South Korea was welcoming hundreds of Middle East patients to its hospitals.

Educational exchanges between the two cultures’ next generation will also be integral, Mr Yun said.

He lauded the progress in relations since the first cooperation forum in Cairo, Egypt, in 2003.

“There is a saying in Korea, ‘even the landscape changes in a decade’,” he said. “It alludes to how much things can change in 10 years.

“Over the last 10 years the relationship between Korea and the Middle East also went through a remarkable transformation.

“What was once a relationship of choice evolved into a relationship of necessity, as our partnership expanded from the confines of economic interest into a much broader and comprehensive cooperation.”

Ahmad Al Astad, head of the conference department at the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research, said the forum – this year under the title, Meeting Global Challenges through Partnership – was taking place at a time of “sensitive regional and international change”.

“There are tough challenges for us all,” Mr Al Astad said.

“These challenges are not limited to the individual nations nor to the specific region. They threaten the entire international system of peace and security.”

He said working together was key in finding peace and protecting countries such as Syria and Iraq.

jbell@thenational.ae