Interview: Chung Hongwon

What factors are responsible for the success of Korean companies in Qatar’s construction industry?

CHUNG HONGWON: Korean companies are renowned for their ability to deliver on difficult or challenging projects, including those in the oil and gas industry. Sixteen major Korean construction companies have a presence in Qatar and many have already been awarded major projects, while others are participating in the tendering process. Korean companies are currently involved in several flagship projects in Qatar such as the New National Museum, Msheireb Downtown Development, the Lusail Expressway project and more recently, several packages of Qatar’s new metro network.

What does the recent memorandum of understanding (MoU) mean for Korean companies’ participation in Qatar’s infrastructure programme?

CHUNG: During my visit in August, the MoU on cooperation in infrastructure and urban planning leading up to the 2022 FIFA World Cup was signed between the Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning of the state of Qatar, and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport of the Republic of Korea. Korea has experienced rapid development in the past few decades, and during this period, it faced challenges similar to Qatar caused by rapid urban expansion. To cope with these challenges, Korea had built new infrastructure, as well as developed policy areas that integrated urban planning, housing and developing new cities.

Moreover, it should be remembered that Korea has significant experience of hosting many international events such as the Olympics, the Asian Games and the FIFA World Cup. Through this MoU, I hope that our two countries will be able to exchange experience and information about policies. This should also facilitate the entry of more Korean companies into the Qatari market, which can in turn help handle these challenges.

How do you view the development of Korea’s relations with Qatar following your recent visit there?

CHUNG: During my visit to Qatar from August 26-28, 2013, I met with the Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, and the prime minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani. We exchanged ideas on how to increase cooperation in multiple fields and on joint investment in third countries, using Korean technology and Qatari financial backing. To discuss this joint investment in third countries, we are expecting a delegation from Qatar Investment Authority to visit Korea in the near future. We also look forward to celebrating the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Korea and Qatar in 2014.

What factors have led to increased bilateral trade, and in which areas would you like to see future expansion within the trade relationship?

CHUNG: The value of our bilateral trade ties has increased from $6.7bn in 2006 to around $26bn in 2012. Energy is a key area in our trade relations, with liquefied natural gas (LNG) and oil exports making up a significant part of the trade balance. Korean exports to Qatar have also increased significantly in sectors such as electronics, automobiles and heavy machinery. Qatar is making huge investments to develop its infrastructure, especially in the construction and transportation sectors, which will contribute to trade growth between both countries. IT, health and manufacturing will also be good areas to expand trade relations.

How important is Qatar’s hydrocarbons industry to the sustainability of the Korean economy?

CHUNG: As of 2012, Qatar is the largest supplier of LNG to Korea, having exported over 10m tonnes of LNG. This accounts for around 30% of all LNG imports to Korea. Qatar is also the third-largest supplier of oil to Korea. These facts alone show how important Qatar’s hydrocarbons industry is to the Korean economy. As with other industrialised nations, Korea is in need of more clean