South Korean President Moon Jae-in arrived in the Emirates on Saturday for a four-day visit, where he is expected to discuss opportunities in healthcare, science, research, and technology sectors.
It is Mr Moon’s first visit to the Middle East since he was elected last year, and his first overseas trip in 2018.
"I look forward to taking our strategic partnership to new heights and laying solid groundwork to further deepen and advance our future-oriented, comprehensive strategic partnership," Mr Moon said in an interview with state news agency Wam.
The visit would be "an opportunity to boost friendship and co-operation between Korea and the UAE amidst volatile international situations" added the South Korean president.
It is expected to move their relationship beyond its traditional partnership in energy and construction sectors.
“Now is the time for our two nations to establish a new type of initiative for forward-looking co-operation that can drive each other’s growth and advancement beyond the horizon of material economic relations such as energy and construction projects.”
Discussions over the coming days will explore “concrete and political measures for co-operation” in the various sectors.
His tour will include a visit to the US$18.6 billion (Dh68bn) Barakah nuclear power plant, the first plant South Korea has built abroad. "The fact that the UAE put confidence in Korea, which had no experience in constructing overseas nuclear power plants, and signed a contract with us to build one in Barakah was possible only because there was deep trust between our two countries," Mr Moon said. "Thus, it should be regarded as a symbolic project for bilateral cooperation."
“The Barakah nuclear power plant has been playing its namesake role as a divine blessing in our bilateral relations, indeed. When Korea received the order for building the Barakah nuclear power plant in 2009, our two countries established a strategic partnership and went on to expand and diversify bilateral cooperation not only in conventional areas of collaboration, such as energy and plant construction but also on all fronts, including national defense, healthcare and medical services, culture, government administration and even space exploration.”
On his visit, the president will launch a joint Research and Development Centre at Khalifa University and is expected to discuss satellite development. South Korea made the UAE's first satellites, DubaiSat-1 and DubaiSat-2, and helped develop the first UAE-manufactured satellite, the KhalifaSat, which is in Korea for inspection before launch.
In health care, the countries will develop ties built since a Memorandum of Understanding was signed in 2011. The federal government covers the cost of travel of more than 3,500 Emiratis to Korea for treatment every year. Bringing that expertise closer to home, the federal Sheikh Khalifa Specialty Hospital in Ras Al Khaimah is managed by Seoul National University Hospital and employs about 210 Korean medical professionals.
The visit will "cement friendship and trust" with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.
“I am aware that there is an Arabic saying, ‘al rafiq qabl al tareeq’ which means ‘to choose a friend who can be a companion before heading out on a journey’," Mr Moon said.
Amid rapid international developments and social changes, it is a very difficult and, at the same time, important task to find a true friend and companion.”