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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) in Iraq.

"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 competitive edge.

"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.




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