UAE, S. Korea building ties via cultural, economic cooperation

July 25, 2016

ABU DHABI, July 25 (Yonhap) — South Korea and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are expected to further expand their ties through cultural and economic exchanges with the Asian country’s presence in the Middle Eastern country also looming larger in the medical and educational service sectors, the head of a friendship community has said.

In an interview with Yonhap News Agency, Humaid Al Hammadi, president of the Emirati-Korean Friendship Society, said just a decade ago UAE citizens were not aware of South Korea and thought the country as just one of many East Asian nations.

Humaid Al Hammadi, president of the Emirati-Korean Friendship Society

Humaid Al Hammadi, president of the Emirati-Korean Friendship Society

But the Korean drama “Daejanggeum” was a big hit in Middle Eastern countries such as Saudi Arabia in the mid-2000s, which helped spark people’s interest in South Korea and its culture.

The South Korean epic, also known as “Jewel in the Palace,” triggered a boom in the popularity of Korean culture around the world. Starring Lee Young-ae, the 2003-2004 drama tells the tale of an orphaned kitchen cook who went on to become the king’s first female physician.

Korean TV shows and pop music have been widely enjoyed in Asia and more recently found devoted fans in the Middle East, Latin America and North Africa.

“South Korea is an economy that posted explosive growth without natural resources,” said Al Hammadi. “South Korea should be fully deserving in this regard.”

Other Korean dramas such as “Descendants of the Sun” have become smash hits here recently.

South Korea’s presence in the Middle Eastern country further increased following Seoul’s mega deal to build nuclear plants here.

In 2009, a South Korean consortium led by the state-run Korea Electric Power Corp. won a $20 billion deal to build four nuclear power plants in the UAE, marking the nation’s first export of nuclear reactors. Last year, South Korean President Park Geun-hye visited the UAE to attend a ceremony marking the installation of a Korean-built nuclear reactor at a power plant in Barakah.

Al Hammadi said his country and South Korea have a great potential to further develop their relationship in the coming years.

“The two countries are maintaining sustainable and stable relations thanks to continued efforts by both countries. I think the two can achieve further developments and cooperation down the road,” he said.

He said in addition to economic and cultural exchanges, the two countries are also setting sights on other areas such as education and medical services, which will further bilateral ties in the future.