Apr. 19, 2016

HE Yoon Sang-jick


HE Yoon Sang-jick

Minister, Trade, Industry & Energy of the Republic of Korea

TBY talks to HE Yoon Sang-jick, Minister of Trade, Industry & Energy of the Republic of Korea, on a history of bilateral trade, the SME segment, and the potential of nuclear energy.


HE Yoon Sang-jick graduated from Seoul National University in 1981 with a degree in international economics before completing a master's in political science in 1984 and then a master's in law in 1996. He later attended the University of Wisconsin. He has worked for many companies in numerous positions, including as a Director at MOCIE, Assistant Secretary to the President for Industrial Policy, and Director General at MKE. In May 2013, he took up his current position of Minister of Trade, Industry, and Energy of the Republic of Korea.

As the Republic of Korea is already considered one of Qatar's closest energy trading partners, what non-energy sectors pose the greatest opportunity to further the collaboration between the two countries?

Our two countries have long maintained a close relationship, especially in the areas of energy and construction. Qatar is the top gas supplier to Korea, and Korean companies have participated in 103 projects in Qatar (worth $17.8 billion) in the four decades since they first started doing business in the country in 1976. In the process, they've contributed greatly to Qatar's efforts to build infrastructure and establish the industrial base. Thanks to the visit of Emir Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani of Qatar to Korea in November 2014, the visit of President Park Geun-hye of Korea to Qatar in March 2015, and frequent exchanges between high-ranking officials, a number of MoUs have been signed to promote cooperation in diverse areas of trade and investment, industrial technology, ICT, finance, and medical care. By building on these agreements, we've gradually expanded our bilateral cooperation to other areas such as public health, education, national defense and security. Looking ahead, we can expect to see big opportunities for our two countries to partner in fields like small- and medium-scale manufacturing, ICT, smart grids, and medical care as demand for bilateral cooperation grows in the wake of Qatar's industrial diversification polices aiming at preparing for the post-oil era.

How can the Republic of Korea's experience in diversification facilitate the diversification of the Qatari economy?

Korea has experience in developing competitive industries in textiles, steel, automobiles, semiconductors, medical care, and ICT, to name a few, in a short period of time. What is more, Korea has been working in recent years to transition toward a creative economy that encourages convergence between manufacturing and service industries and promotes high-tech business start-ups. At the same time, Qatar is pushing forward with industrial diversification under the Qatar National Vision 2030, in a bid to move beyond its energy-dependent economic structure and realize sustainable economic growth. To this end, I understand that it is making active efforts to attract and develop new industries in manufacturing, IT, new renewable energy, and medical care. I believe that the 'creative economy' of Korea and the 'National Vision 2030' of Qatar are of the same vein, and close bilateral cooperation will contribute greatly to realizing our respective goals. In this regard, we should take advantage of the Korea-Qatar High-level Strategic Cooperation Committee to further strengthen cooperation on mutual investment, joint R&D, and exchanges of young talents.

Similarly, one of the strategic thrusts of the Qatar National Vision 2030 is to stimulate economic growth via industrial development and manufacturing. How can Korean SMEs play a role in achieving this goal?

Korea has long focused on nurturing small and medium enterprises through R&D investments and finance support. In recent years, we put more emphasis on promoting entrepreneurship. These efforts have given rise to a number of globally competitive SMEs, and technology-based start-ups. Korean SMEs specializing in renewable energy, construction and plant materials and equipment, and ICT have a strong interest in cooperation with Qatari companies. They are more interested in building joint ventures and transferring technology. To help such Korean SMEs enter the Qatari market, Qatar needs to attract investments through providing financial incentives and resolving regulatory difficulties faced by companies wanting to do business in the country. Korean SMEs' entry to Qatar will fuel the development of technology and manpower suitable for local production, and experience working in SMEs will enhance local workers' entrepreneurship. Therefore, attracting and cultivating SMEs is an essential factor in developing home-grown industries, and Korean SMEs' entry to Qatar will contribute to achieving that goal.

How can the Republic of Korea play a role in assisting Qatar in developing peaceful nuclear power?

Nuclear power is an indispensable source for power generation in the post-oil and new climate era. It is also a useful tool for industrial development and economic growth. Since it first established a nuclear research institute in the 1950s, Korea has adopted nuclear reactors and power plants for both research and commercial purposes while making investments in the use of nuclear energy and development of nuclear technology. Through these efforts, it has accumulated and localized related technologies, enabling it to become self-sufficient in nuclear energy and export commercial nuclear power plants to the UAE. Korea can share the know-how it has accumulated through continuously constructing and operating nuclear power plants over the past 40 years as well as via its experience with localizing nuclear energy technology. In the short run, by implementing the MoU on nuclear cooperation that our two countries concluded in March of this year, Korea can cooperate on training personnel in the nuclear energy field and engage in technical cooperation related to nuclear reactors for research purposes. In addition, if the Qatari government decides to use nuclear energy in a commercial way, Korea can expand its cooperation with Qatar into that area as well.