Visit cements ties between South Korea and UAE
Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, will be visiting Seoul from today until Friday. It will be his fourth visit to South Korea since 2006.
The bilateral strategic partnership that has evolved since the signing in 2009 of the project to build a nuclear power plant in Barakah has been expanding into diverse fields such as the education, cultural, medical and health care sectors.
The most important event during the Crown Prince’s visit will be his meeting with Park Geun-hye, the president of the Republic of Korea. The leaders have a common background given that their respective fathers were presidents of their countries who led and guided processes of nation-building and economic development.
Sheikh Mohammed’s father, Sheikh Zayed, accomplished national unity and a high level of economic development beginning in the 1960s. Similarly, President Park Geun-hye’s father, Park Chung-hee, achieved rapid economic development in Korea through a period termed the “Miracle on the Han River” through a series of five-year economic development plans. Korea now stands in the top tiers of industrialisation and democratisation. The UAE is also witnessing a high level of economic growth in a politically stable environment.
There are also considerable similarities in the national agendas of the two countries. The UAE is pursuing sustainable economic development to prepare for a post-oil era by way of diversifying its industry and ensuring a high level of technology and expertise through a prioritisation of education. South Korea is also seeking new growth-engines to move forward confidently into the 21st century. To achieve this, President Park is initiating a focus on the “creative economy” that places creativity at the core of economic development efforts and aims to generate new added values, employment and growth engines.
It is clear that these commonalities have enabled them to surmount a number of challenges with new technology and inspired innovation. This has, importantly, been done by placing a heavy emphasis on creativity and expertise through education. South Korea and the UAE have a number of synergies that can support and benefit one another. Against this backdrop, it is expected that the president and the Crown Prince will discuss points related to a cooperative agenda that will produce positive, tangible outcomes.
The most symbolic outcome in the areas of cooperation between the two countries is the nuclear power plant project. In preparation for the post-oil era, the UAE is in need of new energy potential. In this respect, South Korea is able to contribute significant expertise, as it has 40 years of experience in building and operating nuclear power plants. When the UAE plants become operational in four to five years, many experts from Korea will come to Barakah to support their safe operation and, in the process, will look forward to building strong and lasting friendships with Emiratis.
The UAE is also engaged in a joint petroleum storage project in Yeosu at the southern tip of the Korean peninsula. The countries have become strong companions, as the UAE is able to respond swiftly to changes in oil demand and South Korea is in a priority position to import oil in the event of any future shortage.
The two countries are also co-operating very closely in multilateral projects such as the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), an international organisation headquartered in Incheon that seeks to reduce carbon emissions and encourage efforts towards a more healthy and sustainable planet. The UAE has actively participated in the project, with the Middle East regional office of GGGI located in Abu Dhabi. The UAE also hosts the headquarters of the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena), which contributes to the promotion of clean, renewable energy all over the globe. South Korea has managed Irena projects and is a council member of the agency.
The two countries are also working closely together on the eventual reconstruction of Syria, and during the Crown Prince’s visit, they will sign a memorandum of understanding in the field of international development cooperation.
As the Korean ambassador to the UAE, I am looking forward to deepening the friendship between our nations through cultural and person-to-person exchanges. In particular, I expect that exchanges between members of the younger generation will have a positive effect on the degree to which the countries are able to grow together. At the end of last year, when Infinite, one of the most famous K-pop groups, was performing in Dubai, I watched many young Emirati people enjoy the concert and learnt that a cultural connection has already been formed between the youth at the grassroots level.
I plan to make more opportunities to facilitate similar cultural exchanges between the young people of the two countries.
The late Sheikh Zayed rightly pointed out that “the real wealth of the country is not found in any material wealth; it is made up of men, of children and of future generations”. This is something we all should heed. The UAE is yielding good fruit by dispatching 25 young Emiratis to Korea every year through the Youth Ambassador Programme, and I expect more young Korean people to come to UAE in the near future.
I have no doubt that the strong and warm relationship between the two countries will develop further into a long-term and broad partnership.
Kwon Hae-ryong is Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to the UAE
Updated: February 25, 2014 04:00 AM