Shared vision is the way of the future

  • 28 October 2013

Endorsements rarely ring louder than the one given by Kim Jong-young, the former South Korean ambassador to Saudi Arabia, in a presentation on Abu Dhabi’s Vision 2030 in Seoul this week. The plan, Mr Kim said, is “a design force to be reckoned with”.

Prof Sherif Heikal, from Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul, added that Abu Dhabi’s vision for further development is a model for the entire Middle East.

The occasion was the 10th Korea-Middle East Cooperation Forum, organised in cooperation with the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research, the Korea-Arab Society and the Jeju Peace Institute, and held in the South Korean capital on Wednesday.

Mohammed Al Khadar, the head of the Abu Dhabi Planning Council, told the forum: “The vision is to create a confident, secure society and to develop a sustainable, global and competitive economy.”

It’s significant that Abu Dhabi’s plans have been discussed in Seoul, because there are many similarities between the UAE and South Korea. Both are very young nations that have experienced extraordinary economic growth and social advances – albeit from different bases and under different circumstances.

Speaking at the forum, Yun Byung-se, South Korea’s foreign minister, noted that this region has been the main source of oil powering South Korea’s development, while many infrastructure and industrial projects in the Middle East have depended on Korean expertise and technology.

Times are changing, with both South Korea and the UAE diversifying their economies, both still striving for growth and excellence. Mr Yun identified renewable and nuclear energy, educational exchanges and medical tourism as areas for further cooperation.

Certainly, there are challenges. For example, on the issue of student exchanges, surveys have found concerns on both sides. Young Koreans were found to hold a few misconceptions about Islam, while Arab students were concerned about an apparent lack of halal food and mosques in South Korea.

Building strong partnerships requires respect and understanding, but with the trust, optimism and shared goals already in place in this and other relationships, the possibilities for mutual gain are many.