Your Ministry recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the UAE Ministry of Energy. What will this MoU bring to both countries?
We signed a MoU on bilateral cooperation in the field of energy on the occasion of the state visit of HH Sheik Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan of Abu Dhabi to Korea in February 2014. This MoU seeks to promote the exchange of information, know-how, and manpower in all energy sectors, including nuclear, oil and gas, renewable energy, energy efficiency, and carbon capture and storage (CCS). In particular, South Korea and the UAE will work together to train energy professionals with the aim of carrying out concrete cooperation projects in both countries. They will also actively pursue joint business opportunities in third markets such as the Middle East, Africa, and Europe using their skilled labor in the nuclear, oil, and gas fields. The UAE has a geographical advantage as a gateway to neighboring countries in the Middle East and Africa. The Barakah Nuclear Power Plant, which is currently under construction, is the first commercial power plant built in the Middle East outside Iran. This new nuclear plant is expected to serve as a benchmark for future nuclear power plant construction in the region. The skilled labor gained through the construction and operation of the plant will contribute greatly to Korea and the UAE's joint entry into third markets. The two countries will also enhance cooperation between their universities and oil corporations in the oil and gas sectors so that the UAE can obtain more of the manpower it needs, and Korea can secure more energy resources.
With a particular focus on Dubai, what is your future economic outlook for the UAE, and how do you envision future relations between Korea and the UAE?
Dubai accounts for 30% of the UAE economy and has very sound finances. In particular, real estate prices, which plummeted after the 2008financial crisis, are gradually recovering. Moreover, the UAE, which has the world's sixth largest oil reserves and seventh largest natural gas reserves, is seeing sustained growth in the non-oil industries, such as construction, exports, tourism, and finance. All these factors point to a bright economic outlook for the UAE, including Dubai. Except for 2009, when it was hit by the financial crisis, the UAE has recorded steady growth in exports and imports over the past decade. This is evidence of the UAE government's commitment to maintaining its open trade policy as it seeks to develop into an economic hub for the Middle East. Crude oil accounts for about 37% of the UAE's total exports. Nevertheless, the UAE is diversifying its exports to include jewelry, machinery, and electric and electronic products, showing that the country has a solid industrial base compared to other GCC countries. In particular, the UAE has well-developed and growing non-oil industries, such as manufacturing, construction, tourism, and finance. These industries are likely to lead the growth of the UAE economy in the future. As the third-largest trading partner in the Middle East, the UAE is an important economic cooperation partner for South Korea. Since the two countries established diplomatic ties in 1980, we have continuously strived to expand our bilateral trade. Korea's winning the bid to build a nuclear power plant in the UAE in 2009 has especially served as a great opportunity to solidify our trade ties. So far, economic missions and product exhibitions have mainly been spearheaded by the private sector with the support of the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Korea Trade Promotion Corporation (KOTRA), and other investment agencies. In the future, I hope to see more active cooperation between both governments in expanding exchange between SMEs, holding information sharing sessions on investment, and exchanging high-level personnel.