Korea sees new era in UAE ties


Korea sees new era in UAE ties
Kwan Seok Lee, the new regional president of Kotra.

Published: Mon 20 Aug 2018, 5:15 PM

Last updated: Mon 20 Aug 2018, 9:46 PM

The recent upgrade of UAE-Korea ties to 'special strategic relationship' is opening a new era in bilateral relations, with the East Asia nation seeking to bolster investment cooperation in several key areas, including petrochemicals, technology, space development, ICT and start-ups.
Kwan Seok Lee, the new regional president of Kotra's (the trade and investment promotion agency of Korea) Mena head office and general manager of Korea Trade Center, Dubai, said that Korea plans to create a platform from which promising start-ups in the IT sector from the UAE and Korea can flourish together. "As our economies become more advanced and businesses become more high-tech, there are less and less jobs opportunities for young people at multinational companies."
He said that following the state visit by President Moon Jae in March, during which several new economic, scientific, healthcare and energy agreements were signed, the two nations started a new chapter in their trade and economic cooperation. In March, during Moon's visit, both nations agreed to upgrade the UAE-Korea "strategic relationship" to "special strategic partnership".
The Korean leader, who was on a two-day visit to the UAE, has said proactive strategies adopted by the UAE and South Korea to prepare for the Fourth Industrial Revolution as well as their investments in space development and ICT will help further advance both economies in the future.
"We believe that the 'special strategic partnership' between the UAE and Korea, one of the top trade partners of the Emirates, will serve as cornerstones in further advancing our relationship," said Lee.
Korea is the eighth trading partner and the seventh largest import market of the UAE. In 2017, the UAE imports from Korea rose more than three per cent to Dh29.2 billion while the two-way non-oil trade with Dubai alone grew by eight per cent last year to Dh27.43 billion, comprising Dh22.1 billion in imports and Dh4.47 billion exports.
According to the latest available data, Korean-backed investment in the UAE at the end of 2017 reached more than $2.7 billion. There are 83 commercial companies, 242 commercial agencies and 2,573 trademarks from Korea registered in the UAE
Although the official diplomatic ties between the UAE and Korea were established in 1980, the economic relationship had begun before that, when Kotra established an office in the UAE. "That strategic move has been the stepping stone for the flourishing economic cooperation between the two great nations," said Lee.
Speaking to Khaleej Times, Lee said Korean companies see increasing opportunity in the UAE to grow their presence in the Mena region over the next few years.
"I believe the UAE will be a very crucial market for Korean companies over the next few years as Expo 2020 is just around the corner. We all understand that the Expo is expected to be a monumental event for the UAE and will be the catalyst that will bring new light to the economy in the GCC. Korean companies, or any company, that successfully participates in projects of Expo 2020 will have the opportunity to newly strengthen their position in the GCC."
Besides Expo 2020, Korean businesses see numerous other opportunities that can create "win-win" situations for the UAE and Korea. Lee said that the Korean government believes that supporting startups is the answer to solve slow growth in new jobs since startups will create new products and services in new spaces resulting in new employment opportunities being created.
"Kotra plans to support startups in many ways, including finding investors, trading partners, and other startups to create joint ventures. During the Annual Investment Meeting 2018 held in Dubai, Invest Korea and Dubai FDI expanded on the previously signed MOU to include a collaborative support system for startups," he said.
Lee, who has been serving in the Middle East for several years, believes the brand of Korea is pretty well respected in the region. "I think high-quality products brought to the market by Samsung, Hyundai, LG, and other Korean global brands have engraved the Korea brand in the minds of people here."
"In addition to the products introduced to the market by multinational Korean companies, I believe there are many consumer goods, such as beauty products, food items, and more that are of excellent quality in Korea. One of the main programs I plan on launching soon is to bring those goods to the Mena region," he said.
Lee said as a government agency, Kotra will focus on working with companies that can bring high-quality and safe products to the UAE. "We sincerely hope that our programmes will support Korean companies in not only successfully introducing their products to the market, but also in creating joint ventures with companies in the UAE to further advance their business into the greater Mena market together."
Lee said Korea and the UAE possess advantages in the downstream and upstream markets respectively. Cooperation with Korean operators can reinforce production capacity for downstream products and therefore make a contribution to the UAE's industrial diversification efforts.
- issacjohn@khleejtimes.com


Issac John

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