ABU DHABI // Emiratis looking to travel to South Korea no longer need a visa after an agreement was signed between the two governments last week.
The agreement, effective immediately, was signed last week by Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, and South Korean foreign minister Yun Byung-se at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
Koreans and Emiratis visiting each other’s countries will be able to enter without a visa for a maximum stay of three months.
The decision was taken due to the tripling of the number of Koreans in the UAE in the past five years, reaching 13,000 citizens.
“The Republic of Korea regards the UAE as one of the closest partners politically and internationally,” said Park Kang-ho, the country’ ambassador to the UAE.
“For example, Seoul appreciates the UAE’s active participation in the international community’s efforts on urging Pyongyang’s [North Korea’s] nuclear renunciation and prevention of provocation. [South Korea] and the UAE extend their relationship in the international sphere, such as development, climate change, human rights and counter-terrorism, to name a few.”
Every year, about 10,000 Emiratis visit South Korea and about 70,000 Koreans fly to the UAE. Almost 3,000 Emiratis flew to Seoul last year for medical treatment, and seven South Korean hospitals are established in the UAE.
“This a great step in strengthening the strategic partnership between both countries,” said Humaid Al Hammadi, president of the Emirati-Korean Friendship Society. “The relationship is strong and the people in both countries have an increasing interest in getting to know about each other better. This will be beneficial for both sides.”
Analysts said South Korea provided a suitable partner as the UAE aspires to transform its economy into knowledge-based to diversify away from oil.
“The relationship is inexorably on its way to growing and deepening as there is no historical, political or strategic issues separating the two countries,” said Dr Albadr Al Shateri, adjunct professor at the National Defence College. “In fact, there is a sense of shared interest and threat perception between the two represented by extremists and rogue states.”
During the meeting in New York, both parties also discussed North Korea’s nuclear threat, following the latest and fifth nuclear test conducted by the country on September 9, which the UAE strongly condemned.
“The UAE has consistently supported the position of South Korea and the latter will continue to cooperate with the UAE for the complete, verifiable and irreversible abandonment of [North Korea’s] nuclear weapons and missile programmes,” Mr Park said.
South Korea and the UAE work in a number of areas, from construction, oil, nuclear energy, security and counter-terrorism to healthcare, education, culture, trade and investment.