How Can Korea Parlay President Park’s Tour into ‘2nd Middle East Boom’?
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How Can Korea Parlay President Park’s Tour into ‘2nd Middle East Boom’?
Government takes follow-up steps to convert the trip into Korea’s resurgence in the region by making the most of the latest tour

07(Tue), Apr, 2015

Saudi King Salman bin Adudulaziz Al Saud, the custodian of the two Holy Mosques, rolls out the red carpet for President Park Geun-hye by receiving her at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh on March 3.

The Park Geun-hye government is stepping on the gas to flesh out steps to parlay her latest visit to four Middle East countries into the nation’s 2nd Middle East boom.

The government evaluated the outcomes of President Park’s official visit to Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, and discussed how to convert it into Korea’s resurgence in the region during the 7th Trade and Investment Promotion Committee Meeting at Cheong Wa Dae on March 19, the Ministry of Strategy and Finance (MOSF) said. The government decided to provide an add it on al 5 trillion won in policy loans to the Korean construction industry for laying a foundation for the nation’s 2nd Middle East boom with the goal of raising the value of winning projects from the region to $80 billion by 2017 and took other steps during the meeting.

An evaluation of President Park’s first overseas trip in her 3rd year in office showed it contributed to paving the way for Korean businesses to make inroads into the ICT and health/medical care sectors of the countries, and laying a solid foundation for the nation’s 2nd Middle East boom by signing economic agreements, providing support for large-scale project bids and attracting global investments. 

Countries of the Middle East are now scrambling to diversify industry portfolios as part of their strategies to nurture new growth engines to brace for the post-crude oil era. Out of the industrial portfolios, the ICT and health/medical care fields are the areas in which Korean companies have a competitive edge, the MOSF said. 

The ministry expects Korean youth to have jobs from diverse new industries, to be created from the Nation’s 2nd resurgence in the Middle East. 

Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, in which President Park toured, account for 74 percent of the region’s combined trade value. 

During the trip, Korean SMEs and mid-size superstars singed a consolidated 44 MOUs through one-on-one negotiations and reaped tangible results — winning a combined $906 million worth of contracts, some reached on the scene and others to be signed later. The latest summit diplomacy turned to expanding cooperation in such new industries and high value-added segments as new/renewables, ICT, health/medical care and food, on top of the conventional industrial fields, including energy, construction and crude oil. 

Korea’s types of promoting cooperation in the region have diversified to promoting joint projects and attracting investments, departing from the conventional exporting of goods and services. 

Korea signed an MOU to export SMART (System-integrated Modular Advanced ReacTor), a homegrown reactor technology to Saudi Arabia. The deal calls for the construction of two SMART reactors worth $2 billion. If follow-up projects are implemented in accordance with the SMART partnership, chances are high that Korea will gain more exports to the region down the road. On the occasion of President Park’s visit to the country, governments and companies from both countries signed 14 MOUs. They moved a step closer to winning projects worth a combined $5.4 billion — $2 billion in the nuclear power industry, $3 billion in the electricity field, $200 million in the electronics sector and $200 million in the pharmaceutical field. 

Doosan Heavy Industries and Construction inked an MOU on power technology with the state-run Saudi power authority. In case Korean companies win projects from Saudi Electricity Company (SEC), the Korea EximBank will extend loans to Korean companies worth up to a combined $3 billion. 

Korean and Saudi Arabian countries inked an MOU on a joint study on the creative economy. SK Telecom signed an MOU with Saudi Telecom (STC) on a model of creative economy innovation center to Saudi Arabia. The STC side wants SK Telecom to transfer the model of the Daejeon Creative Economy Innovation Center, SK Telecom officials said. 

JW Pharmaceutical and BCWORD Pharm reached a deal with a Saudi SPC on the creation of a specialized pharmaceutical complex. It is the first time a Korean pharmaceutical company made inroads into the Saudi pharmaceutical market. Yonsei University has agreed to provide its medical technology and operation system to a women’s cancer center, to be established in Riyahd, Saudi Arabia. 

Both countries agreed to promote collaboration in the e-government and information security segments. 

Reflecting the future bilateral cooperation between the two countries, Saudi King Salman bin Adudulaziz Al Saud, the custodian of the two Holy Mosques, rolled out the red carpet for President Park by receiving her at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh on March 3. 

Korea also signed an MOU with the United Arab Emirates to make joint inroads into the nuclear power and infrastructure fields of third countries, including the Middle East, Africa and Asian countries. The UAE is the first Middle Eastern country in which Korea is now building four nuclear power units. 

A civilian-government regime will be formed to promote collaboration in exporting halal foods to be eaten according to Islamic Sharia. Halal food customers are estimated at approximately 1.8 billion. Related government agencies and business circles will establish task forces and teams specializing in exporting Halal foods. The Korean government plans to build a zone specializing in Halal foods within the Foodpolis, a Korean national food cluster in Iksan, and double Halal food exports by 2017.

President Park Geun-hye holds a summit with Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheik Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan at Al Mushrif Palace in Abu Dhabi on March 5.

President’s Tour to Middle East

President Park embarked on a nine-day trip to four Middle Eastern nations from March 1. She visited Kuwait from March 1 to 3, Saudi Arabia from March 3 to 4, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) from March 4 to 6 and Qatar March from 6 to 8.

President Park held summits with the heads of state of those countries to discuss how to promote substantive bilateral cooperation and other global issues as well as the situations on the Korean Peninsula and in the Middle East. 

In Kuwait, President Park and Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah discussed how to work together in concrete ways in a wide range of areas, including energy, construction and plant engineering, transportation and railways, healthcare and medical services and information and telecommunication technologies. In addition, they had in-depth discussions on the latest developments surrounding the Korean Peninsula and measures to advance peace and stability in the Middle East.

During her visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, President Park and the kingdom’s newly enthroned King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud held a summit, followed by meetings with key members of the royal family as well as business and cultural events. 

The UAE, the third destination of the presidential trip, has a strategic partnership with Korea and was the first country to which Korea exported a nuclear power plant. As such, the nation is currently an important partner with Korea and will continue to be in the future. During the summit with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and other gatherings, President Park exchanged ideas on a wide range of ways to enhance substantive cooperation.

The State of Qatar, the last stop, will host the 2022 FIFA World Cup. During a return visit for the state visit to Korea of Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in November last year, the president held a summit, attended cultural events and met with business leaders. On the occasion of these gatherings, President Park gave an evaluation of bilateral relations that marked the 40th anniversary of relations last year, and also expressed her commitment to developing bilateral relations into the future.

President Park holds a summit with Emir of the State of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah at the Bayan Palace on March 2.(Photos on the courtesy of Cheong Wa Dae)

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