Over the last few years, during the term of outgoing President Lee Myung-bak, bilateral relations between our countries have made significant progress, thanks to the support both of President Lee and the President of the United Arab Emirates, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
I, and my country, look forward to the further development of those relations and to the strengthening of the strategic partnership between the UAE and Korea during the term of President Park.
The ties between our two countries began in 1980, when diplomatic relations were first established. Over the next 25 years, our economic, political and cultural ties grew steadily, to the benefit of both countries.
The formation of the joint committee for economic cooperation in 2005, however, launched a new phase in their development and, since then, there has been exponential growth in a wide range of fields.
Some of these are more familiar, such as the agreements between the UAE and Korea for the construction of our first nuclear power stations, at Barakah, in western Abu Dhabi, and the awarding of oil exploration and production concessions to the Korean National Oil Company.
There are other aspects of our relationship that have received lesser attention, but are also of great importance. Those aspects include collaboration in the development of our human resources, communications and information technology, and cooperation in cultural matters as well as on political and defense issues.
Some of that is reflected by trade statistics. Thus the UAE is now Korea’s second-largest economic partner in the Middle East and North Africa and one of the world’s largest importers from Korea. The volume of trade exchange between our two countries was $22 billion in 2011, up nearly 25 percent from 2010. The UAE is a major exporter of crude oil to Korea, and now, with the export of Korean nuclear technology to the UAE, Korea has become an important supplier of energy to the UAE as well.
While few Emiratis live and work in Korea, we have demonstrated our desire to inform Koreans about who we are through our active participation in Expo 2012 Yeosu last year, where our pavilion, I am delighted to say, won plaudits for its contribution to our shared commitment to the protection of the marine environment. The film, “The Turtle,” which was specially prepared for our pavilion, was seen by hundreds of thousands of Koreans and has subsequently won prizes internationally.
In the UAE, our mutual links are developing in other ways. Zayed University, for example, in collaboration with the Korean Language Globalization Foundation, has established the King Sejong Institute, focused on teaching Korean language and culture. This will help to elevate our cultural relationship, as will the growing number of Korean residents in the UAE, who now total more than 10,000. Many of these residents are working for Korean companies that have already made a significant contribution to our development. It was Korean companies that built the iconic Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the tallest building in the world.
As we look ahead, I confidently expect the bilateral relationship between our two countries to continue to develop rapidly.
At the same time, it’s important for us to look beyond the bilateral relationship to the global arena. We have shared concerns in many fields, such as those of climate change and issues related to the prevention of nuclear proliferation. The UAE and Korea are both dependent on overseas trade, so the promotion of greater maritime security is of crucial importance to us.
There are other global issues too where perhaps we can develop a common approach, such as the prevention of human trafficking, or the empowerment of women or the provision of humanitarian assistance for those in need.
I look forward to being able to discuss some of these topics during my visit. We have already made great progress toward developing our relationship and our partnership. There is, though, much more that we can do in the years ahead, for the benefit of both our countries and peoples. I look forward to playing a part in that process.
|Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan|
By Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan
Foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates