Kwon Hae-ryong, Ambassador of the Republic of Korea says the trade volume between the UAE and South Korea is expected to increase in the future Image Credit: AHMED KUTTY/Gulf News

South Korea shares strong bilateral relations with the UAE, where trade and investments have always been significant. In the last three years, the number of Koreans living in the UAE has nearly doubled from 6,000 in 2010 to over 10,000 this year. As the cooperation between the two countries expands in the fields of nuclear energy, infrastructure and construction, more Koreans are expected to move to the UAE.

Korea is set to build the world’s safest and most efficient nuclear power plants at Barakah in Abu Dhabi. “Once operational, more than 1,000 Korean professionals will be staying in Barakah and this will not only be a gain in the energy sector but will also contribute to the cultural exchanges between the two countries,” Kwon Hae-ryong, the Ambassador of the Republic of Korea, tells GN Focus. Kwon took charge as the ambassador to the UAE in June, 2013.

Four 1400MW nuclear reactors will be constructed through the years 2017 and 2020. Trade between both nations posted a record figure of $25 billion (Dh91 billion) in 2008. In 2012, goods worth $22 billion were traded between the two nations. “Considering the active economic cooperation between the UAE and South Korea, the trade volume is projected to increase further in the future,” Kwon says.

South Korea imports crude oil, naphtha and liquefied petroleum gas and exports manufactured goods such as automobiles, electronic appliances and steel structures to the UAE. In 2012 the UAE was the second largest export market and a trading partner for Korea in the Middle East.

In recent years the high point in bilateral relations came in December 2009 when Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation, awarded a contract worth $20 billion to a consortium led by Korea Electric Power Corporation to design, build and help operate the four new nuclear power plants the UAE is planning to set up by 2020.

The UAE and South Korea signed an agreement in March 2011 to allow Korean National Oil Corporation participate in the exploration of three untapped oil fields in Abu Dhabi. “In the same month, the UAE government joined the Global Green Growth Institute project initiated by the Korean government. In December 2011, a UAE patient went to Korea for the first time to receive medical treatment,” the ambassador says.

Health care and tourism

The UAE and South Korea are working to strengthen bilateral cooperation in the health care sector. A growing number of people from the UAE have started to combine medical care with a holiday in South Korea. In 2012, around 4,000 Emiratis visited Korea for business and leisure, while 12,000 Korean tourists visited the UAE. The Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority hosted a roadshow in Seoul last June to promote tourism opportunities in the UAE.

“After the exemplary treatment of a UAE patient with vocal nodules, we have successfully treated about 350 patients from the country. We expect the number of patients travelling to South Korea from the UAE to reach 1,000 this year,” says the ambassador.

Last year, Dubai Health Authority selected Bobath Memorial Hospital, Seoul, to run Dubai Rehabilitation Centre’s medical and therapeutic services.

For the Korean automobile company Hyundai, the UAE accounted for 8.1 per cent of its sales in the Middle East during the first half of 2013, making it one of its biggest markets in the region. “In 2012 we sold 20,007 units in the UAE, which was a 60 per cent increase from the previous year and a record for us in the UAE. During the first half of 2013, we sold 10,821 units, which was an increase of 7 per cent compared to the first half of 2012,” says Tom Lee, Vice-President and Head of Hyundai Africa and Middle East Regional Headquarters, adding, “We will shortly be launching two new showrooms, in Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah, to ensure our customers receive the highest quality service.”

With iconic brands such as Samsung and LG, the electronics sector is a key driver of bilateral trade. Samsung Gulf recorded more than 50 per cent growth across all its divisions in the UAE in the first eight months of this year. “We had a strong start to the year from the momentum of a successful 2012. In April 2013 we launched the Galaxy S4 and the new 2013 smart TV range, which has sustained this growth momentum in the UAE.

“We expect to continue with this growth as we plan to bring new products to the market and showcase our innovations at Gitex Shopper. We are developing launch plans for a number of other products that were announced at IFA 2013, the world’s leading trade show for consumer electronics and home appliances,” says Young Soo Kim, President. Samsung Gulf Electronics.

Exhibitions and events

Ahmed Pauwels, CEO, Epoc Messe Frankfurt, the Dubai subsidiary of the leading German trade fair and conference organiser, says there is an increase in the number of Korean exhibitors across all its shows in recent years. “Automechanika Dubai, one of our leading fairs, reported a 200 per cent increase in Korean participation in 2013 compared to 2009, with close to 100 Korean companies participating. Meanwhile, Beautyworld Middle East witnessed a 38 per cent increase in Korean participation and Intersec, our trade fair for the security, safety and fire protection industries has reported a 13 per cent increase in Korean participation since 2009,” he says.

The Korean embassy in Abu Dhabi is planning to host a Korea Week from November 21-23 this year at the Abu Dhabi National Theatre. “We have planned various programmes for Korea Week, such as Taekwondo, traditional music and other non-verbal performances. It will also include a traditional Emirati cultural programme and the UAE-Korea generation dialogue in which the two countries will enjoy cultural interaction,” Kwon says.