Korean president says visit to Kuwait to boost energy cooperation
By Rashed Al-Ruwaished (with photos) SEOUL, March 25 (KUNA) -- South
Korean President Roh Moo-hyun said Kuwait had enhanced amicable and
collaborative relations as a "close friend with Korea" in various
areas since the two countries established diplomatic ties in 1979.
In an exclusive interview with the Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) prior
to his visit to Kuwait on Monday, the South Korean President said,
"My visit this time will serve as an opportunity to further
strengthen the existing collaboration in energy as well as
construction and plant projects, and to broaden the horizon of
cooperation to share experiences in economic development and launch
a human resource development program." Roh, first Korean President
to visit Kuwait in 27 years, is on his second tour in the Middle
East since last May.
Though South Korea and the Gulf nations are located at the two ends
of the Asian continent, the tradition of trade and exchanges through
the Silk Road dates back many centuries.
"Korea and countries in the Gulf region still maintain close
cooperative ties in energy, construction and other sectors," he
said, noting that potential for further collaboration between both
sides was much greater in the light of Korea's experience in
economic development and advanced technologies as well as the Gulf
Cooperation Council (GCC) countries' natural resources, capital and
industrial diversification policy.
He also expressed hope that Korea's ties with the Middle East in
general would develop into "an all-embracing cooperative
relationship on reciprocal basis", referring to the Korea-Middle
East Cooperative Initiative for the 21st Century.
On prospects of boosting cooperation between Korea and Kuwait in the
oil sector, the Korean President pointed to the fact that Kuwait was
the third largest supplier of crude oil and liquefied petroleum gas
(LPG) to his country.
The two countries have been seeking various cooperative measures in
the energy sector, moving forward beyond mere trade in crude oil.
Since last November, both sides implemented a pilot project of joint
stockpiling of crude oil amounting to two million barrels, President
Roh told KUNA.
Korea has accumulated expertise since 1999 through which it can
carry out the joint stockpiling project for crude oil. Based on such
advantages as advanced technology, efficient cost and facility
operating experiences, the country can be an attractive candidate
destination for a crude oil exporting hub in Northeast Asia, where
the largest oil importers are located.
"I hope that such energy cooperation businesses as the joint
stockpiling project will gain further momentum and continue on a
long-term basis in the future," he said.
Moreover, he hoped the two nations would explore ways to venture
into third countries for joint investment projects along with
expanded Kuwaiti investments in Korean energy industries such as the
petrochemical and refinery sectors.
As for his evaluation of bilateral political ties with Kuwait at
various levels, President Roh said both countries continued to
foster amicable and cooperative relations since the establishment of
diplomatic ties in 1979.
Recent years have witnessed a steady broadening of dialogue at many
levels as noted by the exchange of visits between prime ministers,
ministers and other senior officials and by the meetings of various
cooperation committees, he elaborated.
In addition, the two countries worked closely together to bring
stability and peace to the Middle East in every step of the process
during the 1991 Gulf War and the 2003 Iraq War.
Cooperation continues to date as reflected by the stationing in
Kuwait of the Daiman Unit, which is responsible for air
transportation of supplies to troops of the Republic of Korea (ROK)
"That record of collaboration demonstrates the strength of friendly
Korea-Kuwait relations that are advancing across political, economic
and security fronts," he said, "and I hope these ties will grow even
stronger in years to come." On the bilateral economic ties between
Korea and Kuwait as a GCC business partner, President Roh said
Kuwait was "Korea's major trade partner in the Middle East." Not
only did the trade volume between the two countries triple from USD
2.4 billion in 2002 to USD 8.8 billion in 2006, but the range of
goods for trade had also diversified, expanding from crude oil and
petroleum products to automobiles, cell phones and household
electronic appliances, he explained.
The President also noted there were many areas where both could
achieve a win-win solution by collaborating in the fields of energy,
construction, industrial plants and information technology (IT), as
well as sharing expertise in economic development.
The energy sectors of the two countries have shown a steady rise in
trade and have reached a point where their cooperation needs to move
a notch higher by taking on many joint projects.
Many Korean companies have world-class expertise in construction and
plant development and would contribute greatly to the economic
development of Kuwait.
"It is my firm belief that Korean experiences in economic
development will serve as a fine reference for Kuwait as it prepares
for a post-oil economy. Particularly, Korea has developed a globally
trend-setting information and communications industry, and bilateral
collaboration in this field will help Kuwait diversify its industry
more efficiently," President Roh said.
Also there is much room for expanding bilateral investment.
As the 12th largest economy in the world, Korea is well equipped
with world-class human resources, science and technologies, and is
now poised to emerge as a viable economic hub in Northeast Asia,
taking advantage of its geopolitical location.
"I hope Kuwait will give special attention to the Republic's
manufacturing, logistics, finance, Information and Communications
Technology (ICT) and tourism industries" he added.
Referring to broader Korea-GCC economic, President Roh said economic
collaboration between both offered tremendous benefits to all
parties concerned, and the exchanges should continue to expand.
Best prospects are envisioned in the area of energy, resources,
construction, plant facilities, shipbuilding and IT.
"I believe Korea and the GCC need to have a Free Trade Agreement (FTA)
to raise their level of economic cooperation one notch higher. The
Korean government intends to embark on procedures necessary for
initiating bilateral FTA negotiations within this year." As to how
Kuwait could benefit from Korea's skilled workforce and
sophisticated technologies, President Roh pointed out that in just
half a century, Korea had achieved remarkable economic development
from the ashes of the Korean War (1950-53). Korean automobile,
steel, shipbuilding and petrochemical industries have a global
"So far, Korea has been nurturing IT, biotechnology (BT) and other
high-tech industries intensively through the process of continuing
innovation", he said.
"As you know, Kuwait has been concentrating on national development
with a particular emphasis on diversification of industrial
structures, and Korean experiences should have special relevance in
the Kuwaiti drive," the President added, pointing out Korea was
ready and willing to share its expertise with Kuwait.
"I expect that ties will be bolstered in the development of human
resources, in particular, in the form of training experts in IT, BT
and in all other areas," President Roh concluded.
His Highness the Amir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber
Al-Sabah, in his capacity as prime minister, visited Korea in July
2004 and met with President Ro Mo-hyun.
During the visit, the two countries had agreed to enhance bilateral
economic ties and boost investments. A host of agreements were
signed for encouraging and protecting investments, fostering
economic and technical cooperation, as well as a memorandum of
understanding (MOU) for environmental cooperation.
The Korean side had expressed appreciation for the significant role
played by Kuwait for securing continuous oil supplies.