Children have fun while drawing during the South Korean National Day celebrations in Dubai. Image Credit: Arshad Ali/Gulf News

Dubai: The South Korean community in Dubai marked its National Foundation Day on Thursday with wishes of peace and harmony back home and in their second home in the Middle East, the UAE.

Koreans every year celebrate their National Foundation Day on October 3. This public holiday marks the day of foundation of the ancient Korean kingdom.

In Dubai, the reception was attended by Jameela Salem Al Muhairi, Minister of State for Public Education, members of the diplomatic corps, and members of the community.

Traditional Korean food was served and guests got a chance to experience making a “najeon”, a traditional Korean craft that uses abalone shell or mother of pearl as a design on an accessory.

During the ceremony, Heo Namduk, Consul-General of South Korea, said he wishes for peace for Koreans and other nationalities this National Day.

“We hope for peace to our people living in Korea. That has no special meaning for politics, but mainly I wish for people to peacefully come together and exchange views and talk about peace. I wish the same even for Emiratis and expats living in the UAE. We know that the UAE is a safe and peaceful country. But in the neighbouring countries, there are tensions,” the consul-general told Gulf News.

Namduk said the strategic partnership between Korea and the UAE has gone from strength to strength through the years. The UAE is the second largest trading partner of Korea in the Middle East with trade volumes reaching $15 billion (Dh55 billion). Korea, the world’s 12th largest economy, is the UAE’s 10th largest trading partner.

“So in terms of trade, our ties are already very close. Many big Korean companies have their regional headquarters in Dubai, that’s the natural reason why our ties are very close. Other than that, also, we are building the Nuclear Power Plant, a mega project in Abu Dhabi.”

Namduk said there are roughly around 13,000 to 14,000 Koreans in the UAE, spread equally between Dubai and Abu Dhabi. This is projected to further increase once the power plant becomes operational.

In terms of people to people exchange, Korea is a favourite among Emiratis, Namduk said, especially when it comes to medical tourism. Some 10,000 Emiratis travel to Korea every year, 3,000 of whom go for medical reasons.

Koreans and Emiratis may visit each other’s country visa-free, and enjoy a maximum 90-day stay.

Namduk also invited the UAE community to visit Korea in February for the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang.

“Now the tension in Korean peninsula is very serious. So I hope that come the Winter Olympics next year, it will be a good place for people around the world to just have fun with each other, to forget about politics and everything. For Emiratis who have lived here all their life and have never had the chance to see snow and winter sports, it’s a good chance for them to come to Korea not just to see the sports but to also taste Korean food and enjoy Korean culture.”