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United Arab Emirates' 35th Armed Forces Day Marked in Seoul
Celebration Marks Growing S. Korea-U.A.E. Ties
By Ken Maingot
Associate Editor
Lt. Col. Mohamed Matar Al Ali (right), defence attache of U.A.E. Embassy in Seoul, poses with U.A.E. Ambassador to Seoul Abdulla Khalfan Al Romaithi at reception held in celebration of U.A.E.'s 35th Armed Forces Day at Seoul's Lotte Hotel May 6, 2011

Defence attache Lt. Col. Mohamed Matar Al Ali of the United Arab Emirates' Embassy in Seoul hosted a dinner reception to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the U.A.E. Armed Forces (Unification) Day on May 6, 2011.

The dinner party was held at the Lotte Hotel in downtown Seoul and was attended by new United Arab Emirates' Ambassador to Seoul Abdulla Khalfan Al Romaithi, as well as several military officials from other foreign embassies in Seoul.

High-profile guests from other walks of life were also invited to the dinner reception, which lasted well into the evening.

In recent years, ties between South Korea and the United Arab Emirates have been growing by leaps and bounds in many sectors, including the defense industry.

U.A.E. Ambassador to Seoul Abdulla Khalfan Al Romaithi (center) and Lt. Col. Mohamed Matar Al Ali (2nd from right), defence attache of U.A.E. Embassy in Seoul, pose with Mr. Mihn Byung-Il (left) and CEO Kim Kyong-Hae of Communications Korea.(second from left)

Bilateral relations between South Korea and the United Arab Emirates were first established early in 1980, and have witnessed steady development in recent years — politically, economically, and culturally. South Korean President Lee Myeong-Bak and United Arab Emirates President, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, have committed themselves to a fruitful partnership between the two countries.

The United Arab Emirates was one of the first countries to denounce the attack launched by North Korea on South Korean territories in November 2010. South Korea and the UAE also engage in joint military training.

Local actress Yang Mi-Ra (center) poses with Chairman Hilton Lee at U.A.E.'s 35th Armed Froces Day reception on May 6, 2011. At left is Mr. Joseph Joh, publisher of The Seoul Times.

President Lee Myeong-Bak has made two official visits to the United Arab Emirates in the past two years, once to Abu Dhabi in March 2011, and before that in December of 2009. On both occasions, several landmark cooperation agreements between the U.A.E. and South Korea were reached, including an AED75 billion contract between the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation and a consortium of South Korean and U.S. companies headed by Korea Electric Power Corporation to oversee the design, building, operation, and maintenance of four civil nuclear power plants as part of the United Arab Emirates' nuclear energy program. The deal is the largest ever reached between the two countries.

Beyond this important contract, several bilateral committees have been established since 2009 to facilitate cooperation between U.A.E. and South Korean companies and government entities in the fields of nuclear and renewable energy, communications, shipbuilding, human resources development, semi-conductors, and information technology.

Ms. Kwon Mi-So (center) of Seoul National University poses with her colleagues at U.A.E.'s 35th Armed Forces Day event held at Lotte Hotel on May 6, 2011. At right is Mr. Pyun Jae-Suk.

With reference to the multi-billion dollar U.A.E. contract awarded to the South Korean consortium in 2009, Shaidh Khalifa stated that the United Arab Emirates relationship with South Korea “has seen sustainable growth in recent years, and has ushered into a new era of strategic partnership which will serve interest of the two countries.” South Korean President Lee Myeong-bak has expressed gratitude to the U.A.E. on multiple occasions, and promised even greater effort from his government to improve future bilateral relations.

In May 2010, His Highness Gen. Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi and deputy supreme commander of the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces, also made an official visit to South Korea upon the invitation of South Korea’s head of state, Lee Myeong-bak. During this visit, further bilateral relations and matters of common concern between the two countries were discussed. Sheikh Mohammed commented on South Korean investments in the U.A.E., including approximately 130 South Korean heavy industry and information technology companies operating there.

Even prior to 2009’s landmark contract, the volume of exchange trade between South Korea and the United Arab Emirates had surged by 43 percent that same year, to a total of US$14.5 billion. Initiatives introduced by the U.A.E.-South Korea Joint Economic Committee, established in June 2007, have paved the way for much of this growth. The U.A.E. ranks second among countries exporting oil to South Korea (100-120 million barrels annually), and second also among export destinations for South Korean goods (approximately US$5 billion annually). Principal South Korean goods exported to the U.A.E. include ships, automobiles, electronic appliances, textiles, and steel structures.

Over 6,000 South Koreans already live and work in the United Arab Emirates, with 8,000 to 9,000 more expected within the next four years for work in the construction sector. As a result, Etihad Airways, a U.A.E. local carrier launched in Dec. 2010, has begun operating daily trips between Abu Dhabi and Seoul.

The Korean economy has proven one of the strongest Asian economies, in terms of exports and gross domestic product. On several occasions, the United Arab Emirates has expressed admiration for the South Korean development model. As a country building its own strong liberal economy, the U.A.E. is in the process of strengthening ties with other active economic powers, including South Korea.

The U.A.E.-South Korean Business Council seeks to bolster sustainable economic development, discover opportunities to expand joint cooperation, open more cooperation channels between the two governments, and create more job opportunities in both countries.

Relations between the UAE and South Korea have expanded into cultural spheres, as well. The Abu Dhabi International Book Fair showcases classic and contemporary Korean literature translated into Arabic, and vice versa.

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Ken Maingot serves as Associate Editor for The Seoul Times. A Canadian from Ottawa, Ontario, he lives in Seoul. His area of special interest is politics and culture. He enjoys traveling the nation. He majored in Philosophy at Carleton University, and Pacific Rim Studies at Langara College in Vancouver. He can be reached at






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