UAE announces deals with South Korea as President Yoon Suk Yeol shows support for Emirates

Leader says having reliable energy partners is crucial, while a free trade agreement would benefit all

South Korea's President Yoon Suk Yeol meets President Sheikh Mohamed in Abu Dhabi

South Korea's President Yoon Suk Yeol meets President Sheikh Mohamed in Abu Dhabi
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President Sheikh Mohamed met South Korea’s President Yoon Suk Yeol on Sunday as the UAE announced several deals with the Asian country.

At an event in Abu Dhabi, the nations unveiled agreements in fields including hydrogen use in cities and its production, transmission and storage, state news agency Wam reported.

A deal on water resources was also announced between the Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure and the South Korean Ministry of Environment.

The UAE Space Agency and South Korea’s Ministry of Science and Information and Communications Technology also agreed to amend a 2017 deal regarding co-operation in space exploration and its use for peaceful purposes.

An agreement regarding co-operation in transport was also exchanged.

There was a deal announced between the Mubadala Investment Company and the Korea Development Bank regarding the “sovereign investment partnership”, and an agreement regarding financial co-operation between Taqa and the Export-Import Bank of Korea, Wam reported.

Dr Sultan Al Jaber, Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology and managing director and group chief executive of Adnoc, signed a strategic energy partnership between the countries with South Korean Energy Minister Li Chang-Yang.

Dr Al Jaber also exchanged a deal on crude oil storage co-operation with Kim Dong-Sub, chief executive of the Korea National Oil Corporation.

Agreements were also announced relating to defence, carbon neutrality and the development of next-generation cargo aircraft.

It came as Mr Yoon emphasised the importance of ties between his nation and the UAE.

Mr Yoon, who began a four-day state visit to the Emirates on Saturday, said the UAE was an essential energy partner for his country, supplying it with more than 50 per cent of its oil imports.

At the same time, he spoke of major efforts to develop clean energy and looked ahead to Cop28, to be hosted by the UAE, in November.

I am especially happy to hear that global K-pop stars are popular with the youth of the UAE, who have joined in the Hallyu wave sweeping across the world
Yoon Suk Yeol

“We will support the success of the UAE’s hosting of Cop28 [the UN Climate Conference to be held in Dubai] at the end of this year and work together in that regard,” he said.

His comments, in a written statement, were as follows:

“I am very pleased that I have finally met with President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan in person during my visit. I look forward to the two of us building a solid friendship and trust.

“My current visit carries a special meaning, in particular because it is the first state visit since the UAE and the Republic of Korea established diplomatic relations in 1980.

“Our discussions during the summit focus on how to enhance strategic co-operation in four key areas: nuclear power plants, energy, investment, and defence industry.

“Also on the table are ways to elicit forward-looking co-operation across all sectors where our two countries can create synergy, including climate change responses, science and technology, future new industries, and healthcare, as well as cultural and people-to-people exchanges. The potential for Korea-UAE co-operation will be substantial, and doors for bilateral co-operation will be left wide open in all available areas.

“As I am accompanied by a huge delegation of over 100 Korean business leaders, in addition to key government officials, I am convinced that the scheduled summit will serve as an important opportunity to produce significant results that further advance bilateral relations and to take the relationship between our two countries to a new level.

A sustainable energy mix

“This year’s Cop28 will, for the first time, assess the progress of joint efforts to reach the Paris Agreement Goals by conducting the global stocktake. It will mark a crucial turning point for further strengthening of climate action worldwide.

“In particular, the UAE, a leading oil producer, became the first country in the Middle East to declare its carbon neutrality goal and is pursuing a transition to a clean-energy-focused economic and industrial structure. In this regard, it is incredibly symbolic that the UAE is hosting Cop28 this year.

“The Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week has been held since 2008 as a venue to gather the wisdom of experts on technology development and international co-operation from around the world for the transition to clean energy. Therefore, the event is expected to be a bridgehead that secures the success of Cop28.

Korea and the UAE have maintained a long-standing strategic partnership, and I intend to use my coming visit as an opportunity to expand our countries’ friendly co-operation to encompass our efforts to achieve carbon neutrality and strengthen climate action among the world’s nations,” Mr Yoon said.

Clean nuclear energy

“The leap forward in bilateral co-operation that our countries saw with the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant will be expanded to all sectors related to a fair and sustainable clean energy transition, including renewable energy, hydrogen, and carbon capture, utilisation, and storage. In doing so, we will jointly enhance the stability of the energy market in both countries and across the globe, as well as identify new economic opportunities.

“In addition, when the UAE’s experience in constructing and operating Masdar City [one of the world's most sustainable urban communities] is combined with Korea’s world-class IT, infrastructure building and green technology, our two countries are expected to produce significant achievements in the global smart city market.

“Korea and the Gulf nations have experienced many cases of mutually beneficial co-operation centred on energy, construction, and infrastructure.

“Korea is one of the world’s top five crude oil importers. With over 50 per cent of our imported oil coming from the Gulf, relations with Gulf countries are of enormous importance in terms of our energy security.

“Moreover, Korean businesses have made important contributions to the expansion of national infrastructure in the Middle East. Approximately 30 per cent of the overseas orders our construction companies received in 2022 were from the Middle East. Infrastructure co-operation, like in large-scale construction, can be seen as the driving force behind our two countries’ economic development.

Free trade agreement

“Recently, Gulf countries have been developing future industries in an active and enterprising manner to prepare for the post-oil era. Given Korea’s world-class technological prowess, the experience and know-how that we accumulated carrying out projects around the Gulf and the common vision we share with Gulf countries, both sides are optimal partners for each other.

“Starting with the construction of the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant, the UAE is a key partner in future industries, including space, healthcare and medical services, smart farms, and hydrogen.

“Korea and the GCC agreed in 2007 to push for a free-trade agreement (FTA). The negotiations are continuing with a view to reaching an agreement.

“As important partners in terms of economic co-operation, Korea and the GCC have built a long-standing co-operative relationship in such areas as energy and construction. More recently, the scope of our co-operation has expanded to include advanced industries, defence industry, healthcare, agriculture, and culture.

“I believe the Korea-GCC FTA, if concluded, will establish a comprehensive legal foundation to support bilateral economic and trade relations, making enormous contributions to not only expanding trade and investment between our two countries but also diversifying the ways in which we co-operate.

“Most of all, I hope that the Korea-GCC FTA will become a forward-looking agreement that contributes to our two countries’ joint endeavours of responding to new challenges including climate change, supply chain crises and the digital transition as well as technological and industrial co-operation.

“Building upon our existing co-operative relations in nuclear power plant, our two countries have been collaborating across diverse fields including the defence industry, agriculture, health and medical services and culture. Looking ahead, we envision to strengthen co-operation notably in space, digital and new industries.

“I would like to see this visit help to bring economic co-operation between Korea and the UAE to a higher level.

“Peace and stability in the Middle East and on the Korean Peninsula are important factors for global peace and prosperity.

“The UAE is advancing rapidly under future-orientated leadership and increasing its contribution to regional and international issues. Korea is also pursuing responsible foreign policies commensurate with our changed status under the vision of becoming a global pivotal state.

From Mussaffah bridge to K-Pop love

“In this regard, there is great room for Korea and the UAE to expand our co-operation in the region and global community.

“The UAE has been working as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council in 2022-2023. Korea is also seeking a non-permanent member seat on the UN Security Council in 2024-2025, and we will work together more closely on the international stage, including at the United Nations.

“Moreover, both sides have considerable room to work together based on a common stance in response to such global challenges as climate change, humanitarian aid and global economic recovery,” Mr Yoon said.

“We will support the success of the UAE’s hosting of Cop28 at the end of this year and work together in that regard.

“Cultural and people-to-people exchanges between Korea and the UAE have provided a solid base for the advancement of Korea-UAE relations. I am pleased that this deepening relationship has helped us close the emotional and cultural distances between our two peoples.

“I am especially happy to hear that global K-Pop stars are popular with the youth of the UAE, who have joined in the Hallyu wave sweeping across the world and that Emiratis are showing great interest in K-dramas, games, and other content.

“Amid the construction boom in the 1970s, the UAE’s Korean community began to form in tandem with construction of the Mussaffah Bridge in Abu Dhabi and other infrastructure projects.

“Today, this harmonious community of professionals from various fields, ranging from scientists, physicians, nurses, and flight attendants to entrepreneurs, contributes to the country’s social and economic growth.

“The dedication and exemplary lives of these Koreans have served as the bedrock for mutual trust and respect between Korea and the UAE, as well as soil for growing the friendship that exists between our two brotherly countries.

“The UAE is home to the only Korean Cultural Centre in the Middle East. The Korean government will redouble its efforts to ensure that the centre plays a pivotal role in promoting more cultural exchanges and co-operation as well as people-to-people exchanges.”

Updated: January 16, 2023, 4:39 AM