Lee Myung-bak, President of the Republic of Korea, on a common vision for Dubai and Korea, growing trade relations, and the importance of working together to tackle climate change.

Lee Myung-bak
Lee Myung-bak was elected President of the Republic of Korea in 2007. Prior to entering politics he had a 27-year career with Hyundai Group. He joined the company in 1965 and just five years later, at the age of 29, he became a company director. By age 35 he was Korea’s youngest CEO ever. Upon retiring as chairman of the company in 1992 he successfully ran for two consecutive terms in the Korean National Assembly before becoming Mayor of Seoul from 2002 to 2007. He is a graduate of Korea University.

His Highness Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan was a pioneer and a true visionary. His indomitable will and steadfast leadership prepared the UAE for the future and accomplished what many simply considered impossible. We find such vision and commitment still alive today in Dubai. Under the extraordinary leadership of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid al Maktoum, Dubai has become the model for the 21st century. Man-made islands, waterways, and ultra-modern architecture harmoniously coexist with their natural surroundings. Dubai has successfully blended together modernity, the environment, and aesthetics. Dubai has already taken steps to undergo another great transformation by making itself the model of what it means to be a green city in the 21st century. Dubai is a living testament of what human imagination, creativity, commitment, and able leadership can achieve. Korea also believes in realizing dreams. Korea was a country ravaged by decades of colonial rule followed by a devastating war that left the entire country in utter ruin. However, Koreans were able to transform the country from one of the poorest in the world into a robust and dynamic country. Many thought that Korea was hopeless, but the Korean people believed in their dreams. We have also become a country that is now providing assistance to others. We successfully hosted the G20 Seoul Summit, contributing to common prosperity and shared growth. For a country that was once sustained solely by outside help, it is a phenomenal achievement that we are proud of. And the reason we achieved such growth was because we believed in our dreams and worked to make them happen.

Our two countries share a common spirit, and we have built an important and successful economic partnership. Trade between the UAE and Korea reached $22.1 billion in 2011. Today, Korea is the world's seventh largest exporting country, and the UAE is its largest export market in the Middle East. UAE exports to Korea rose 21.2% to $14.75 billion in 2011, and Korean exports to the UAE grew 32.4% to $7.26 billion. It is believed that UAE-Korea trade will grow by 21% in 2012 to a record $26.6 billion. South Korean firms are now important participants in many key projects in the UAE, from nuclear power to infrastructure. UAE firms are increasing their role in Korea, entering partnerships to ensure Korea's energy security and running one of the country's largest ports.

As a young man, I devoted my life to making my country prosperous. That was my dream. Later, when I became Mayor of Seoul, I worked hard to realize another dream of mine, which was to make Seoul a green metropolis; a city to be truly proud of and comfortable to live in. A long time ago, there used to be a stream that flowed through the heart of Seoul, but it was covered up and left to fester. I got rid of the concrete expressways and the covering that had been in place for decades. I restored the stream to let it breathe again. Today, the silver fish, which are known to live only in the cleanest waters, have returned. When I became President in 2008, my dreams for Korea continued to grow. As we celebrated our 60th anniversary of the founding of the nation, I put forth a new vision. Our “Low-Carbon Green Growth" vision is our answer to the future.

We believe that protecting the environment and attaining sustainable growth can go together. Our Framework Act on Low-Carbon Green Growth is the first of its kind in the world. We are investing over 2% of our GDP into green technology, and are pleased to be able to share our knowledge and expertise with the UAE. South Korean nuclear energy professors have taken up posts at Khalifa University, and Emirati engineering students have visited Seoul to learn about the nuclear industry. A South Korean Green Economy agency is also working in Masdar City. Climate change is undoubtedly the defining challenge of our time. However, we consider this challenge as an historic opportunity. Our Green Growth initiative is revolutionizing the way we think, and the UAE is also thinking creatively to seize this historic opportunity.

When we look at the nuclear power plant in Abu Dhabi, the renewable energy project in Masdar, and Dubai's construction of an eco-friendly, high-tech city of the future, I applaud the UAE's vision and foresight. For a country with one of the world's largest oil reserves, I know it took courage and vision for it to make this decision to prepare for the post-oil era.

And this is why Korea is proud to be the UAE's partner in this endeavor, a journey to create a better, cleaner future for all. Climate change cannot be addressed by a few countries. It is a global challenge that requires a global solution. It must involve our developing partners as well as the advanced countries. This is why Korea launched the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) in June 2010, for which the UAE will be its strategic partner. The regional office for the GGGI in the UAE will act as a hub for the Middle East and North Africa. This institute will be focused on finding workable solutions and bringing genuine change. Our responsibility is to work together to make this world a better place, for ourselves and for our children. Let us show the world the power of dreams.