Abu Dhabi: South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in today (Saturday) expressed the hope for further development of links between his country and the UAE, saying that he was committed "to deepening and strengthening bilateral relations, based on mutual trust".

President Moon, who arrived in the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi earlier today, on his first visit to the Middle East since his inauguration as president last year, said that he planned to hold discussions that would focus on "concrete and practical measures for cooperation to produce synergies in mutually beneficial collaboration between the UAE’s Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030 and Korea’s push for income-led growth and innovation, and people-centered economy, thereby creating future growth engines and achieving the miracle of mutual prosperity."

Through this, he added, “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."

In written answers to questions from the Emirates News Agency, WAM, President Moon singled out the UAE’s first nuclear power plant at Barakah, west of Abu Dhabi, being built by a Korean company, as having established "a strategic partnership" between the two countries. Following the signature of the contract in 2009, he added, Korea and the UAE "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 defence, healthcare and medical services, culture, government administration and even space exploration."

The full text of the questions and of President Moon’s answers follows.

Question: We understand that you spoke by phone to His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, last June and you are making your first visit to the UAE. Is it your first trip to a Middle Eastern country? What expectations do you have for your scheduled visit to the UAE?

Answer: Immediately after I took office in May last year, I spoke over the phone with Crown Prince Shaikh Mohammad, reaffirming our commitment to deepening and advancing bilateral relations based on mutual trust. Since then, our two countries have continued efforts to enhance cooperation through exchanges of special envoys. I am very pleased to visit the UAE, a nation with which Korea has brotherly relations; it will be my first visit to the Middle East following my inauguration as well as my first overseas trip this year.

More than anything else, it is truly meaningful for me to visit the land that achieved the Miracle in the Desert through unceasing endeavors for reform and innovation as well as socio-economic progress.

The magnificent skylines of Abu Dhabi and Dubai that I have seen in pictures are very impressive. I pay my respect to the late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, to His Highness President Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, to His Highness Shaikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, and to Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed, and to other leaders and people of the UAE for accomplishing such remarkable development in the middle of the desert.

First of all, I am looking forward to further cementing friendship and trust with Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed during my visit. Based on such ties, I hope Korea, which suffered national division after its independence but pulled off the Miracle on the Han River, and the UAE, which worked the Miracle in the Desert, will be able to carry on and further develop what has already been achieved through bilateral relations in a relatively short period of time, including the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1980 and a strategic partnership in 2009.

In this regard, I intend to make my visit an opportunity to boost friendship and cooperation between Korea and the UAE amidst volatile international situations. At the same time, I will engage in discussions focusing on concrete and practical measures for cooperation to produce synergies in mutually beneficial collaboration between the UAE’s Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030 and Korea’s push for income-led growth and innovation, and people-centered economy, thereby creating future growth engines and achieving the miracle of mutual prosperity.

By this means, 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.

Question: Korea-UAE ties were taken to new heights in 2009 when Korea won the order for a nuclear power plant in Barakah. Nine years later, how would you assess the bilateral strategic partnership established at that time? Do you have a blueprint for bilateral relations? If so, in what direction do you plan to steer relations between Korea and the UAE?

Answer: Our two countries established diplomatic ties in 1980. We will mark the 40th anniversary of diplomatic ties in 2020 when Expo Dubai will be held, the largest-ever international event in Dubai.

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.

Now is the time for our two nations to establish a new type of initiative for forward-looking cooperation that can drive each other’s growth and advancement beyond the horizon of material economic relations such as energy and construction projects.

Question: In what sectors do you expect to achieve significant outcomes during your visit? Do you have any particular project you put priority on?

Answer: First and foremost is nuclear power cooperation. The Barakah nuclear power plant is not simply a mega construction project worth US$18.6 billion. For Korea, it is our first time to construct a nuclear power plant on foreign soil. For the UAE, it is meaningful in that the country will possess the first nuclear power plant in the Arab world. 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. Thus, it should be regarded as a symbolic project for bilateral cooperation.

For this reason, the successful completion and operation of the Barakah nuclear power plant serves the interests of both our countries and makes bilateral relations stronger. In other words, the success of the Barakah nuclear power plant can be said to be the joint success of both Korea and the UAE. I intend to make a stop at the construction site of the Barakah nuclear power plant during my visit to the UAE to see for myself the fruition of bilateral cooperation and the potential for expanding collaboration in the nuclear power sector.

Other sectors for mutually beneficial, forward-looking cooperation include healthcare and medical services, science and technology, and ICT. Korea signed an MOU on healthcare and medical services with the UAE in 2011, our first with a Middle Eastern country, and our two countries are now actively working together for the treatment of UAE patients at state hospitals in Korea and for Korea's consignment operation of hospitals in the UAE. My upcoming visit is expected to lay the groundwork to carry out more diversified cooperative projects in this area.

Science and technology, including ICT, is also a promising area for cooperation. For the UAE, which hopes to secure upgraded capabilities in this area in a short period of time, Korea is an optimal partner given its outstanding track record.

It is also a very positive development that people-to-people exchanges are becoming brisker in line with progress in bilateral relations, which are now expanding into many different areas. Annually, about 10,000 people from the UAE visit Korea, while about 200,000 Koreans travel to the UAE.

In addition, the popularity of the Korean Wave is rising in the UAE. The number of Muslims residing in Korea stands at 160,000, and an increasing number of Koreans are now taking interest in halal foods. I am pleased by the rising interest of the two peoples in each other's cultures.

I hope my visit will serve as an opportunity to continuously broaden mutual understanding between our peoples.

Question: The UAE Government established the Fourth Industrial Revolution Council last year as part of efforts to take the lead in this era in the Middle East. Paying keen attention to the new trend, it has newly appointed a Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence and a Minister of State for Advanced Sciences. What is your vision for bilateral cooperation in relation to preparations for the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

Answer: The UAE is now making great endeavors to prepare for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, a wise and timely move aimed at fostering future growth engines. Korea has also set up a Presidential Committee on the Fourth Industrial Revolution as part of efforts to promote people-centered innovative growth.

Korea will pursue forward-looking common growth with the UAE, a country that is striving to transition itself into a knowledge-based economy. As the Fourth Industrial Revolution progresses, machines will replace humans for simple labour, and intellectual property rights will become increasingly important. Bilateral cooperation so far for the establishment of the UAE patent administration information system, for which the inauguration ceremony was held on February 28 this year, merits attention as an example of successful cooperation. Korea will continue to work together with the UAE to help it emerge as a hub of intellectual property rights in the Middle East.

During my upcoming visit, a Korea-UAE Joint R&D Centre will be launched at Khalifa University of Science, Technology and Research, through which industry professionals and academics from our two countries will meet for research and discussions. I hope experts at the centre will be able to produce meaningful outcomes in their research for our two countries' shared growth in the areas of new and renewable energy, space and bio-health.

Satellite development cooperation also remains brisk between our two countries. Korea exported DubaiSat-1 and DubaiSat-2 to the UAE, and KhalifaSat, the first satellite developed by the UAE's own technologies, has been in Korea for the final inspection since February this year before its launch. As such, cooperation between our two countries is expanding into the area of high value-added technology in preparation for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. I hope these kinds of cooperation will continue in the years to come.

Question Korea is well known for its advanced healthcare and medical services, and we believe that there is a great potential for cooperation between our two countries in this area. What is your understanding of this possibility?

Answer: Korea signed a Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, with the UAE on healthcare and medical services in 2011, our first with a Middle Eastern country. The two countries are now actively working together in areas of the treatment of patients at government expense and consignment operation of hospitals.

Among other things, the number of patients visiting Shaikh Khalifa Specialty Hospital, which has been managed by Seoul National University Hospital since 2014, is rising every year. I believe this attests to deepening trust in Korea's outstanding medical technology. As of now, about 160 Korean medical professionals are working hard there. The number of outpatients visiting Shaikh Khalifa Specialist Hospital soared to 54,554 during the period from January to September in 2017, up from 18,745 in 2015.

As cooperation in this area is closely related to life-and-death issues in both countries, it would be impossible to carry out such cooperation without mutual trust.

Through bilateral cooperation not only in the management of hospitals but also in overall areas involving pharmaceuticals and medical devices, Korea hopes to make contributions to the UAE's emergence as a medical hub in the region.

Question: Recently, there has been an increasing recognition of Korean culture in the UAE, including K-pop and K-food. This year has been declared the "Year of Zayed." Is there any bilateral cultural event the Korean Government is planning in this regard?

Answer: I heard that many people in the UAE have recently been showing great interest in Korean culture. Their soaring interest in Korea's pop culture such as K-pop and K-drama as well as in Korea's history, traditions and cuisine will serve as a significant stepping-stone for the advancement of friendly ties between our two nations.

In March 2016, the Korean Cultural Centre was opened in Abu Dhabi, the first and only such centre in the Gulf region. This year all of its cultural programs in the UAE will be carried out in celebration of the Year of Zayed.

Every year since 2013, the Korean Embassy in the UAE has held the Korea Festival in Abu Dhabi in cooperation with the Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development. Korea plans to hold this year's festival in October to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of the late Shaikh Zayed, the founding father of the UAE.

In particular, some Korean artists have already been preparing works under the theme of the late Shaikh Zayed, including portraits, and their completed works will be displayed for the people of the UAE during the Korea Festival in October.

These various cultural events are expected to be a milestone for the people of Korea to deeply understand the UAE as an example of a great country built by a great leader and for the people of the UAE to develop fond memories of Korea as well.

Question: Recently, it was announced there would be a third inter-Korean summit in April, and a summit between the United States and North Korea by May. As seen in the name of the UAE, the country has placed priority on harmony and unity among the Emirates under the philosophy of a united nation. Can this can be used as a reference for a policy for the Korean Peninsula. What do you think the integration of the UAE suggests for a policy for the Peninsula?

Answer: I heard that the word "Etihad" of Etihad Airways, a flagship UAE carrier that runs direct flights between Abu Dhabi and Seoul, means "united."

The UAE has embraced and harmonised different characteristics of each Emirate and achieved cohesion and mutually beneficial, shared progress. I believe it is a good example of genuine unity.

Despite the differences in the size of the population, natural resources and territory, many people have come together to build a stable, wealthy and powerful nation, which is truly extraordinary. I was deeply impressed by the strategic vision, insight, leadership and determination of the late President Shaikh Zayed who brought about unity and cooperation through communication and the mediation between various stances and interests of different Emirates through mutual trust and an attitude of putting oneself in someone else’s shoes.

As you are well aware, the two Koreas have been divided over the past 73 years since 1945. Due to many years of division, they have walked very divergent paths in terms of politics, the economy, society and culture. The Korean Government and I are doing all we can to ease tensions through inter-Korean talks, exchanges and cooperation; to overcome differences by building trust, to ultimately achieve denuclearisation and establish a permanent peace regime on the Korean Peninsula and to accomplish mutual prosperity in both Koreas.

Speaking of this, a warm, amiable atmosphere has started to build on the Korean Peninsula as an inter-Korean summit and a summit between the United States and North Korea are scheduled to be held, following North Korea’s recent participation in the PyeongChang Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. I ask for continued interest and support from the people of the UAE so that this favourable atmosphere can bear fruit.

Question: What would you like to say to the people of the UAE on the occasion of your visit?

Answer: 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." 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.

Relations between Korea and the UAE have seen astonishing development over the past 10 years. In that relatively short period, the number of Koreans visiting the UAE increased about 430 times, and Korea’s investment in the UAE grew 23-fold.

In addition, people-to-people and cultural exchanges between our two countries are growing. I believe this will expand the scope of understanding and empathy; solidify friendship and trust and, furthermore, build a strong foundation to help Korea and the UAE develop into brothers, or akh, from partners, or rafik, accompanying each other on a new journey into the next century.

I am satisfied by the fact that the number of Muslims living in Korea has reached 160,000; interest in Arabic culture is growing in Korea, and among the young people of the UAE, there is a rapidly increasing number of students taking an interest in Korean culture and learning the Korean language.

I hope that communication and exchanges between the peoples of the two countries will grow further through this visit. I also hope that just as many Koreans visit the UAE out of fascination for its culture and dynamic development, more people from the UAE will visit Korea to experience various attractions and local food in the years to come.

For the convenience of Muslim tourists, Korea is making efforts to expand the number of halal-certified restaurants and improve a Muslim-friendly tourism infrastructure. I hope that more people from the UAE will visit their brother country of Korea, enjoy our beautiful natural environment and time-honored cultural heritage, witness our dynamic development and feel the deep friendship of the Korean people.