UAE and South Korea Forge Deeper Economic and Political Ties

  • 22 October 2013

SEOUL: Key political, economic and academic figures from the Arab world and South Korea are to meet on Wednesday to discuss ways to strengthen relations and address challenges.

The 10th annual Korea-Middle East Cooperation Forum is this year being held under the theme “Meeting Global Challenges through Partnership” to reflect the ongoing challenges being faced across the globe, said Moon Tae-Young, president of the Jeju Peace Institute, the co-host of the event.

“While we are geographically apart, Korea and the Middle East face many common challenges in today’s interconnected world,” he said. “In fact, in this age of cyberspace, there is no such thing as geographical distance.

“We are together and one, wherever we are located, and face common challenges.”

Nuclear programmes in North Korea and Iran are threats to peace and security at both regional and global levels, he said, while cyber attacks and youth unemployment are challenges that not only Korea and Arab countries face but also the entire world.

The cooperation forum is being co-hosted by the Korea-Arab Society and the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR) and is sponsored by Korea’s ministry of foreign affairs and trade.

Ahmed Al-Astad, head of the Conference Department at ECSSR, said: “We can learn a lot from Korea and they from us.”

As well as a burgeoning relationship with the wider Middle East and the UAE, Seoul and Abu Dhabi have woven closer political and economic ties since Lee Myung-bak, the South Korean president, came to the capital in December 2009 to seal a US$20 billion (Dh73.5bn) deal for four nuclear reactors. The first steps are currently being taken to build Barakah Unit 2 in Al Gharbia.

Mr Al-Astad said nuclear power and oil are the foundations of the relationship between the UAE and South Korea but that it is now expanding to many other areas, from politics and the economy to culture and people-to-people exchanges.

“Nuclear power and oil – these are the traditional ties,” he said. “Now, we are looking forward.”

Areas that the forum hopes to nurture are helping young people and building healthcare systems.

“Health tourism is very important and the UAE and Korea has a healthcare service that can be mutually beneficial to each other,” Mr Al-Astad said.

During the forum, participants will exchange views on economic cooperation, geopolitical challenges and cultural exchanges.

Among those addressing the event are Mr Tae-Young, Yun Byung-se, South Korea’s foreign affairs minister, His Excellency Dr Jamal Sanad Al Suwaidi, Director General of ECSSR, and Mohammed Al-Khadar, executive director of the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council.

Having started in Cairo, Egypt, in 2003, the Korea-Middle East Cooperation Forum has been held annually in Korea and Middle Eastern countries for the past 10 years under various themes to promote relations between the regions.

The forum was last held in Abu Dhabi.

“We should be proud that Korea and Arab countries are among the few in modern history which have overcome economic difficulties and poverty and also that their relations have become strong and robust,” said Mr Tae-Young.

“As our cooperation expands beyond our respective regions, strong partnership between Korea and Arab countries will be more valuable than ever, and collective wisdom will be more useful than ever.”

The forum will be held on Wednesday at the Millennium Seoul Hilton.