Korean firms expand role in Saudi projects

Kim Jin Soo
Kim Jin Soo

Kim Jin Soo, ambassador of the Republic of Korea.

On the auspicious occasion of the 4,348th anniversary of the National Foundation Day of the Republic of Korea, it is a great honor to celebrate this delightful moment of the Korean people with citizens of Saudi Arabia.

It is also an opportunity to extend Korea’s sincere appreciation to the leadership of Saudi Arabia for great support for enhancing the cooperation and deepening friendship of Korea and the Kingdom.

Saudi Arabia and Korea have a rich history of exchanges beyond the far and vast Asian continent in-between.

The history of exchanges between the two sides dates back to the medieval era about 1,200 years ago, when Korea started trading with the Arabs through the Silk Road and sea routes, and broadened its perspectives toward a splendid new culture.

The two countries have more similarities than meet the eye, even though they are located geographically apart.

Ever since Korea was founded on the key principle of “Hong-Ik-In-Gan,” or to “benefit all mankind,” Korea has been sharing friendship and promoting mutual understanding and co-prosperity with the world community, and commemorating it on its national day every year.

This founding principle of Korea is exactly in line with the Kingdom’s basic value and sincere efforts to promote peaceful co-existence benefiting all human being.

The sincere efforts to understand other culture through inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogues are demanded more than ever in the face of increasing daunting challenges confronting us.

Diplomatic relations of the two countries stretch back to 1962.

Since then, the relations have developed tremendously and evolved into a sold partnership.

The traditional friendship and trust-based cooperation have deepened year on year on a wide range of fields.

Korean companies were involved during the economic boom era of the Kingdom between the late 1970s and throughout 1980s when hundreds of thousands of Korean construction workers were working hand-in-hand with Saudi citizens to expand and develop the infrastructure of the Kingdom.

This has, in turn, contributed to the development of the Korean economy.

After having celebrated 50th anniversary of the diplomatic relations between the two countries in 2012, the bilateral ties are on the way to further enhance in the coming years.

With a new era coming beyond the half-century diplomatic relations, now Korea and Saudi Arabia are indeed in need of uniting efforts to share the policy vision and to materialize all-round cooperation, widening mutual understanding through cultural and people-to-people exchange.

If the two countries can creatively combine the strengths of each country and take appropriate initiatives based on new ideas and initiatives, a great synergy effect will be created.

In particular, the relationship has been dramatically enhanced in the recent decade in terms of economic as well as cultural exchanges, which have been reflected in the continuously increasing trade volume, expanding investment and business activities, and reciprocal visits of high-ranking officials and common citizens as well.

President Park Geun-Hye paid an official visit to the Kingdom in early March to unfold the hugh potential for cooperation between the two countries. It gave the fresh momentum for our two countries to open a new chapter in our bilateral relations.

Since the presidential visit, there have been dozens of ministerial ranking official reciprocal visits between the two countries, which reflects the closer than ever bilateral ties and ever-increasing interests in each other country.

It is not anymore surprising to know that Saudi Arabia is the first place when Korean companies seek reliable partners for business cooperation in this region.

Korean firms have increased their participation in Saudi projects remarkably in recent years.

Cooperation among companies of both countries is also rapidly expanding through the closer relationship in the private sector.

Almost 200 Korean companies are represented in Saudi Arabia and they are very active foremost in the technology-intensive and value-added projects in many sectors as petrochemicals, desalination, power generation, information technology and communication, mobility, health and medical solution.

Korea is ready to share cutting-edge technologies and expertise for the economic development and long-term projects with Saudi Arabia.

In fact, there are a number of Korean firms engaged in the industry sectors of high-end quality products such as electronics, communications equipment and automobiles reflecting Korea’s advancement in science and technology.

Leading Korean companies are represented in the Kingdom including Samsung Engineering, Hyundai Heavy Industry, Doosan Heavy Industry, Posco, Daelim, Hanwha, GS Construction which have been vastly engaged in major projects in the fields of petrochemicals, desalinization, and power plants, to name just a few.

In the industrial and trading field also, there are many Korean companies such as Samsung Electronics, Daewoo International, LG Electronics operating here. There are huge potentials to expand ties between the two countries. The two countries have complementary economies and are eager to become closer friends.

On the trade front, Saudi Arabia is one of the major trading partners of Korea.

The bilateral trade volume has leaped from $4.2 billion in 1991 to $31.3 billion in 2010, and again jumped to around $46 billion in 2014.

On the other hand, the Kingdom is Korea’s largest oil supplier, making up almost one third of Korea’s total oil import. Saudi Arabia has also significant investments in South Korea.

As of the end of 2014, the total amount of Saudi investments in Korea have reached more than $900 million, whereas Korea have invested in the Kingdom with more than $1.2 billion accumulated.

Considering the huge potential for economic cooperation, the volume of Saudi investments in Korea is not substantial compared with the trade exchanges between the two countries and with that of Saudi investment in other major trade and economic partner countries.

It is hoped that Saudi investments in Korea will grow incrementally in the years to come.

The embassy is willing to provide all necessary assistance and services to the Saudi authorities concerned as well as businessmen to find investment opportunities in Korea in mutually beneficial ways.

It is now high time to enlarge the exchange program between the two countries with the prime objective of exchanging ideas and expertise, to better understand each country and its culture.

In this regard, it is encouraging to witness that the interest in Korea is growing steadily in the Kingdom, whereas Saudi Arabia is increasingly standing in the forefront in Korea, driven by cultural interaction.

South Korea is rich in experience and knowledge, particularly in the areas of human resources development, education and vocational training.

I am confident that our traditional trust-based partnership and friendship has more promising future, when we find out the encouraging signs that the number of students who study in each countries has dramatically increased almost as much as tenfold within past 7 years to 580 talented students studying in both countries at the moment, in addition to the 40-50 thousand Koreans and Saudis who visit to each countries annually.

These numbers are telling us that the heyday of our relationship is still to come in the years ahead.

In actuality, Korea and Saudi Arabia are focusing on strengthening cultural and people-to-people exchanges, based on the firm belief that these are the most effective means to promote mutual understanding.

The relationship between Saudi Arabia and Korea, based on mutual understanding, will be further strengthened through people-to-people and cultural exchanges. The better you get to know your friend, the deeper your friendship can become. People-to-people and cultural exchanges are like the glue that binds us closer.

These exchanges are bridges we have built to link the hearts of our peoples — not only in the present, but well into the future.

It is all the more remarkable that more than 40,000 Saudi nationals and Koreans visit each country every year with a growing tendency.

For younger generation, educational exchanges will accelerate the two countries to foster mutual understanding. In the field of education and vocational training, there is still much room for further cooperation, considering that Korea has almost 370 universities including high-quality vocational educational training, which provided the industry with the much-needed qualified human resources during the rapid development phase of Korean economy over the past decades.

Saudi Arabia and South Korea share common grounds of universal values such as peaceful co-existence and co-prosperity, as well as traditional values such as filial piety of respecting the elders, hospitality toward guests, generosity for others and family-oriented social order.

The two countries’ friendship and special bonds will be much more strengthened in the years to come.

Once again, I would like to extend my sincere greetings to the leadership, government and people of Saudi Arabia on this auspicious occasion.


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