S. Korea keen to boost relations with UAE

ABU DHABI — Chung Yong Chil, the new Ambassador of Republic of Korea (South Korea) to the UAE, believes promoting people to people contact is the key to deeper cultural, trade and commerce ties between Korea and the UAE. In an exclusive interview with Khaleej Times, the ambassador stressed on cooperation in the field of aviation as well as further enhancing cooperation in the oil and gas sectors. Excerpts from the interview:

By Anwar Ahmad

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Published: Wed 20 Aug 2008, 1:13 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 5:07 PM

Q: As the new Korean ambassador to the UAE, what are your priorities?

A: Ever since the Republic of Korea and the UAE established diplomatic relations in 1980, our relations have grown in all fields, including trade, investment and culture.

We would like to further promote trade, tourism and cultural ties between the two countries. We also want to enhance cooperation in the field of aviation industry. We would focus on the people to people contacts. There is also a greater scope of cooperation in the downstream oil and gas industry.

Has trade grown in the past few years?

There has been a tremendous growth in the volume of trade between the two countries. The bilateral trade in 2003 was worth $8 billion and $16.3 billion in 2007.

Korea's import from the UAE, mostly in crude oil and other kinds of oil and gas products, was $12.6 billion in 2007, and Korea's export to the UAE was to the tune of $3.7 billion in the same period. Bilateral trade has been growing at nearly 20 per cent every year.

What about cooperation in the oil and gas sector?

The cooperation in this sector has been increasing each year. The UAE is the second largest supplier of oil to Korea. But there is opportunity for the Korean oil industry to invest in the downstream sector.

International Petroleum Investment Company, an Abu Dhabi Government-owned company, has invested around $850 million in the refinery sector. But we seek more investments from UAE companies.

What about the cultural relations between the two countries?

We want to foster greater people to people contacts between the two countries.

Are any specific measures being planned for this purpose?

Already, we have cultural cooperation with the UAE. We wish to set up a cultural cooperation committee to discuss the exchange of students. Hopefully, we'll have a joint cultural committee by next year.

On May 26 this year, the Korea Arab Society (KAS) was launched in Korea, comprising both the private and government sectors. While the initiative was taken by the Korean government, the Society is actually a private entity. The organisation aims to promote cultural relations between Korea and Arab countries.

KAS is committed to sending Korean art and cultural groups to Arab countries, and we expect the same from Arab countries as well.

Is the Korean investments in the UAE growing?

Korea's investment in the UAE is not very substantial, but it's growing. In 2004, Korea's investment in the UAE was over $12 billion, in 2006 it was around $120 million and in 2007 it was nearly $750 million.

Is there a need to improve tourism?

Tourism between both the countries is almost negligible. But the Korean tourism department is working to improve it.

For the first time, students of Shaikh Zayed University recently visited Korea.

What kinds of businesses are Koreans doing in the UAE?

There are some 2,700 Koreans who are registered with the embassy, but there are many Koreans in Dubai and Abu Dhabi and that figure could actually reach 5,000.

The Koreans here are engaged in different professions and businesses. There are around 120 Korean companies operating in the UAE, including big and small. Our people are living in peace and prosperity here, and are doing well.


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