South Korea and Qatar signed Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) to enhance bilateral cooperation in various fields on Sunday. Qatar, President Park’s final destination on her four-nation trip around the Middle East, has been diplomatically tied with Korea since 1974. Park and her Qatari counterpart Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thanion agreed to expand cooperation in infrastructure, investment, energy, and medical services during a summit.
In the summit, Park said, "We believe that Korean companies have an advantage in entering the Qatari market, because their expertise and technology in infrastructure projects in the Middle East are highly noted." She suggested many potential areas of cooperation, especially related to the 2022 FIFA World Cup projects.
Qatar, the host country of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, plans to spend about $100 billion on construction projects including railroads, expressways, harbors, and stadiums. Korean officials said that Doha will present new business opportunities for South Korean companies to participate in US$29 billion worth of infrastructure projects in the future, including the construction of the main stadium (US$4 billion), railway (US$2 billion) and roads, bridges, and sewage processing (US$23 billion).
Over the bilateral summit, Seoul and Doha came to an agreement for joint investments in global markets. Qatar Investment Authority and Korea Investment Corporation planned to jointly establish a fund worth US$2 billion for this purpose, they said. The Qatari agency also expressed its interest in six projects proposed by Korea’s side, reviewing positively that the Gulf state would start making substantial investments in the Korean economy. The Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) currently holds about US$256 billion worth of assets, and is expected to act as a major investor in the Korean economy.
The two sides also agreed to sign MOUs to get ready for further development and to solidify their bilateral cooperative relationship.
First, the National Diplomatic Academy at the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs signed an MOU with the Diplomatic Institute at Qatar's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The focus of another MOU was for the cooperation between the Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the Qatar Tourism Authority. According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Qatar represents 3rd in GDP in 2014 by the IMF, and more than 1,000 patients go abroad for medical treatments annually, spending about US$135 million. The Qatari government said that Korea will be the first stop for Qatari patients funded by the Qatar government, and discussed a way to send its medical workers to Korea for oversees training. If accomplished, Qatar will be the second country in the Middle East for Korea to export its medical services. The Qatari Emir said that he has been interested in cooperation between Korea and Qatar in the field of health and medical care.
Most of all, to boost research on the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and cooperation in human resources development, the Korean Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning and Qatar's Ministry of Energy and Industry agreed to secure more opportunities for Korean firms if Qatar plans to build nuclear reactors in the future.
The fourth MOU covers cooperation in education. Furthermore, in the service sector, the two leaders have agreed to systemize the training and hiring of Korean workers in Qatar's airline, education, and healthcare industries, as the Qatari Emir has complimented Koreans' work ethics and credibility.
Lastly, an MOU between the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) and The Gulf Organization for Industrial Consulting (GOIC) is expected to facilitate co-operation between the two sides to support an industrial sector in the GCC countries. Exchanging technological information and statistical data in economic and industrial areas, both parties will cooperate in the area of a consultation and survey of industrial potential by holding seminars, conferences, and workshops. Noting that KOTRA participated in an interactive Industrial Market Intelligence Portal by providing data and information and supporting researchers, the two countries’ cooperation will speed up, strengthening the competitiveness of each side.
Prior to signing these MOUs, President Park met with Korean businessmen in Qatar on Saturday. Park praised them for their hard work that has contributed to raising Korea’s reputation, calling them trailblazers and civilian ambassadors. About 2,000 South Koreans are currently working in Qatar in sectors such as construction, finance, and energy, and up to half of them are in the hotel and airline business. In Qatar Airways, the country’s state-owned flag carrier, one-ninth of the total employees are Korean cabin crew members.
Also, the Qatari Chamber of Industry and Commerce and its Korean counterpart jointly organized the Qatari-South Korean Economic Forum, aiming to enhance cooperation between both private sectors.
The Qatar Minister of Energy and Industry said that exports to South Korea represented 20 percent of Qatar’s total exports. The Minister also said that bilateral trade volume was at US$27 billion in 2013, making South Korea the second biggest trade partner to Qatar. The chairman of the Qatar Chamber of Commerce and Industry (QCCI) praised the contributions of Korean companies in the establishment of many development projects, not only in Qatar, but also in other GCC states. Attending the forum with 80 Korean company representatives, President Park said that it will be an important opportunity to exchange ideas on issues of common interest.
Finally at the completion of her Middle East trip, President Park returned home today.