South Korea and the U.A.E. agreed on Thursday to upgrade bilateral relations by expanding their mutual partnership. At the summit, President Park Geun-hye and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi, observed the signing of six memoranda of understanding (MOU).
One of the MOUs concerns the Korean cultural centre in the U.A.E aiming to promote cultural exchanges. It will be the Gulf region's first Korean cultural center in Abu Dhabi, and will push for the joint development of cultural content. This is in response to a growing Korean population in the U.A.E. and the country’s interest in Korean culture and language, thanks to the popularity of Korean TV dramas and K-Pop.
In addition, both countries agreed on mutual administrative assistance in customs matters. The agreement aims to remove trade barriers through exchanging information and expertise on shipments and customs policies, and training about customs and inspection procedures.
Now there comes a new ground for both countries. Two MOUs in agriculture and halal food were sealed. Halal foods are produced or processed under strict Islamic dietary guidelines, and the global market is expected to grow to US$1.6 trillion in 2018 from US$1.08 trillion in 2012. The deal will help Korean agricultural products make inroads into the Middle East for the first time, and aid in the development of Korean-produced, halal-certified products. Seoul and Abu Dhabi will share halal food technologies and market and certification data. Korean food companies will pave the way to export their products, while the U.A.E. can bolster its agricultural and food industries in cooperation with Korea.
Another MOU was for strengthening existing bilateral ties in nuclear energy for jointly entering into peaceful nuclear energy projects in other countries. The U.A.E. was Korea's first strategic partner in the Gulf region, forging a nuclear cooperation deal in 2009. “We are exerting efforts to develop services in nuclear plants and hope that we will have success through the cooperation in developing and commissioning these plants,” President Park said. She added that new energy industry opportunities are also very important. The MOU is expected to accelerate bilateral cooperation to enter growing future markets such as North Africa and Egypt in the solar energy sector, port development and ship repair work. Under the agreement, both parties will organize a standing consultative group chaired by ministerial-level officials to carry out feasibility studies and research.
At the end of Park’s U.A.E. tour, reports said that Korea will start drilling for oil in the country in 2017. The Korea National Oil Corporation (KNOC) and a U.A.E. joint exploration team extracted 18,000 barrels of crude from appraisal wells in the Haliba field on the Omani border, and confirmed that its chemical component is close to Abu Dhabi's flagship Murban crude. A Korean consortium with GS Energy will start drilling up to 5,000 barrels a day starting in late 2017, and increase the daily production to 40,000 barrels in 2019.