South Korea to use UAE as gateway into Mena region

Exclusive: East Asian country will be opening a technology licence office in Sharjah in 2019 to facilitate investments in tech sector

Park Chan-Jong, president of South Korean government's DICA, which will open its office in Sharjah in 2019.
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South Korea aims to use the UAE as a gateway for investment and knowledge-exchange into the rest of Middle East and North Africa.

The South Korean government’s Daejeon Information & Culture Industry Promotion Agency (Dica) signed a preliminary agreement with Sharjah Research, Technology and Innovation Park this week to facilitate the plan.

"The Mena region - a home to huge young population - is a dream market for most of the Korean companies," Park Chan-Jong, president of Dica, told The National.

“However, this is one of the few markets that the Korean industry has not able to penetrate fully for a long time. Therefore, we are going to utilise Sharjah as a very reasonable gateway to the Mena region.”

Dica will establish its office in Sharjah Research, Technology and Innovation Park next year and plans to bring in up to 25 people from South Korea to work there.

“Our plan is to open a technology licence office, which will be in fact a commercialisation centre. Our negotiations with the Sharjah Government are on to finalise the modalities.

“This office will be the main bridge or entry point for the Korean technology companies who want to invest or do business in Mena.”

Dubai’s non-oil trade with South Korea has increased steadily in recent years, reaching $7.5 billion (Dh101.2bn) in 2017, according to the Dubai Chamber of Commerce, accounting for a majority of the UAE’s non-oil trade with the Asian country.

The current number of South Korean companies registered with the Dubai Chamber are more than 170.

Dica, which discovers promising start-ups in South Korea and supports them, also plans to invest in UAE start-ups through the Sharjah centre.


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“This centre involves huge investment from the Korean side, but this is not the only investment,” said Mr Park, adding, “We have a mandate to distribute our financial resources for start-ups and venture companies in this region. Based up on the feasibility of ideas, we will make direct investment.”

Dica will be mainly focus on key sectors such as information technology, visualising technology, biotechnology, artificial intelligence, robotics and health care.

“Presently, we do around 3,000 to 4,000 technology transfers globally and the Mena share is quite minimal. We are expecting an uptick in technology transfer to this region with the opening of our Sharjah office,” said Mr Park.

“Our focus will be both newly developed as well as existing technologies. We will also facilitate Mena investors in finding the right Korean enterprises and businesses back home.”