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UAE and Republic of Korea: Strategic partnership of development and prosperity paragons

UAE and Republic of Korea: Strategic partnership of development and prosperity paragons
27 May 2024 09:34


The strong ties between the UAE and the Republic of Korea stand as a testament to the transformative power of strategic alliances. The two countries have embarked on a partnership that promises to unlock new frontiers, driving development and prosperity in both nations.

Tuesday’s state visit by President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to the Republic of Korea marks a monument in the long-standing relationship between the two nations, a journey that began 44 years ago.

This visit underscores the UAE's distinction as the first Middle Eastern country to form a special strategic partnership with the Republic of Korea, a partnership that has flourished across multiple domains including economic cooperation, nuclear energy, climate change, cybersecurity, food security, defence, healthcare, culture, public administration, and space.

UAE-Korea relations are seeing steady growth across various areas, propelled by ongoing dialogue and high-level visit exchanges.

Perhaps this is best exemplified in the visit of President Yoon Suk-yeol of the Republic of Korea to the UAE in January 2023, which culminated in agreements that further elevated their strategic cooperation.

H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Republic of Korea’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, in June 2023, co-chaired the first bilateral strategic dialogue between the foreign ministries of the UAE and Republic of Korea.

The dialogue is one of the outcomes of the official visit of President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to the East Asian country in 2019.

A Thriving Economic Partnership
Economic and investment ties between the UAE and the Republic of Korea have seen remarkable growth.

Non-oil trade between the two countries reached $5.3 billion in 2023, a 12.5 percent increase year-on-year.

Korea’s investments in the UAE surged to $2.2 billion, while UAE investments in Korea stood at $578 million by the end of 2022.

The UAE is Korea's second-largest Arab trade partner and its 14th globally, accounting for 20 percent of the East Asian country’s trade with Arab countries.

In return, the Republic of Korea ranks as the UAE's 10th largest non-oil trade partner among non-Arab Asian countries and 30th globally.

Within the framework of their strategic partnership, the UAE committed $30 billion in sovereign investments in Korea’s strategic sectors in January 2023.

During the eighth session of the UAE-Korea Joint Economic Committee in July, both nations agreed to broaden and diversify their economic cooperation across 11 vital sectors and boost mutual investments.

Additionally, the UAE and the Republic of Korea concluded the negotiations on the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) in October 2023, which will turbocharge their trade and investment cooperation, further driving the economic growth of both nations.

A Major Stride in Clean Energy
The Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant is possibly the flagship project that came into being under this partnership.

The $20 billion project is the Republic of Korea's first nuclear power plant construction implemented abroad, after the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) awarded it to a consortium led by Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO).

Marking a major milestone, ENEC announced the successful connection of Unit 4 of the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant to the UAE’s transmission grid in March 2024.

Travel and Tourism
Travel and tourism are yet another field worthy of mention in the growing UAE-Korea partnership, with over 200,000 Korean tourists visiting the UAE annually, and around 60 flights per month operated by Etihad Airways and Emirates between Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Seoul.

In July, the two countries agreed to boost tourism exchange and support startups in the tourism market.

Cultural Convergence
Naturally, such a comprehensive partnership was bound to stretch across cultural and educational fields, with the establishment of the GCC region’s first Korean Cultural Centre in Abu Dhabi and the annual Korea Festival serving as prime examples.

Similarly, the opening of King Sejong Institute branches in Sharjah and Zayed University in Al Ain continue to see growing interest, inspiring the UAE’s citizens and residents to learn the Korean language and explore the East Asian country’s culture.

In 2020, the UAE’s Ministry of Culture and Korea’s Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism collaborated to launch the UAE-Korea Cultural Dialogue as a celebration marking the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between their countries.

Healthcare Excellence
The UAE-Korea partnership also served as a springboard for cooperation in the healthcare sector, solidified by the signing of several memoranda of understanding and cooperation across various medical fields, further bolstering the exchange of expertise.

In January 2022, the Department of Health - Abu Dhabi and the Korea Health Industry Development Institute signed a Memorandum of Understanding enhancing collaboration in logistics across life sciences, biotechnology, and pharmaceuticals, positioning Abu Dhabi as a logistics hub for exporting Korea’s healthcare products and supporting the development and investment in UAE-based enterprises specialised in life sciences.

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