Interview: Kim Sung-hwan

Where do you anticipate greater bilateral cooperation between South Korea and the UAE?

KIM SUNG-HWAN: Having established diplomatic relations in 1980, in 2009 South Korea and the UAE upgraded our relations to a strategic partnership, which has allowed both nations to forge stronger bonds of cooperation. In 2011, bilateral trade volume totalled $22bn, making the UAE our 11th-largest trading partner.

Furthermore, bilateral investment has more than doubled from $116m in 2010 to $286m in 2011, strengthening the UAE’s position as South Korea’s most valuable investment partner in the Gulf region. In addition to strong economic ties, we have sought to build our partnership by expanding cooperation in other fields. South Korean hospitals have treated many patients from the UAE, and we are now working to provide the same health care services in the UAE. South Korea and the UAE are also jointly training engineers in the field of nuclear energy.

As the scope of our cooperation continues to expand, I am confident that in the years ahead we will witness more cases of joint enterprise between our two countries in various fields, leading to more people travelling between South Korea and the UAE. The increasing number of Korean language courses now being offered at universities in the UAE will be of great value in reinforcing this friendship between our two nations.

What role can Abu Dhabi and the UAE play in leading the transition towards renewable energy?

KIM: South Korea and the UAE are similar in many respects. We both endeavour to deepen our knowledge and acquire innovative entrepreneurship skills, based on a robust market economy.

These factors have led us to make joint investments in a variety of fields. In the area of renewable energy, I am confident that the UAE will become one of our key partners in raising international interest in green growth.

South Korea and the UAE are among the key members in two international organisations related to the use of renewable energy. The UAE is home to the secretariat of the International Renewable Energy Agency, which will see its role expand as the need for renewable energy continues to increase.

Moreover, Abu Dhabi hosts the regional office of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), a South Korea-based organisation that is devoted to the development of green growth strategies.

I am pleased that South Korea and the UAE, along with 14 other countries, signed the Agreement on the Establishment of the GGGI at the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development, and we are delighted to have the UAE as one of the founding members of the GGGI. Looking ahead, I am confident that the UAE will play a valuable role in the continued promotion of green growth in the Gulf region.

The GCC was one of the least affected parts of the world during the economic downturn. Do you feel that there are lessons from the bloc’s economic development that can be emulated elsewhere?

KIM: The economic turmoil that began in 2008 has affected every major economy around the world, from the US, EU and Asia – and the GCC is no exception. Amidst ever-increasing uncertainty, companies had to make tough decisions and take more risks.

Nonetheless, the GCC economies have withstood the economic turmoil, and their small and medium-sized enterprises have grown to be more innovative and future-oriented. With its strong leadership and the willingness to cope with challenges, the GCC has been one of South Korea’s most stable partners, and South Korea is willing to expand the scope of cooperation with the GCC member countries.

Furthermore, the GCC has strived to realise the hopes of its people and has provided clear direction to move towards an even brighter future. This is indeed well illustrated by the efforts the UAE has made for the realisation of the goals that have been set out in both the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030, and UAE Vision 2021.