South Korean president Yoon heads to Davos after business-focused summit in UAE

He is also expected to use the occasion to promote Busan’s bid to host the World Expo in 2030.

Shin Ji-hye

Shin Ji-hye

The Korea Herald


President Yoon Suk Yeol walks with Emirati leader Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan at a state luncheon held at the United Arab Emirates presidential office during Yoon`s state visit on Tuesday. (Yonhap)

January 18, 2023

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Touting himself as the “salesman of South Korea,” President Yoon Suk Yeol wrapped up his four-day state visit to the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday, sending home $30 billion of business agreements with the lucrative economy, before heading to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, to talk international affairs.

The presidential office viewed Yoon’s visit to the UAE as “the first step toward the first year of the new Middle East boom,” and an opportunity to overcome a complex crisis through exports and entry into overseas markets.

Lee Kwan-sup, the senior presidential secretary for policy and planning, said, “We have created the greatest achievement of all the UAE tours in scale and performance, such as attracting $30 billion in investment and 48 memorandums of understanding.”

Upon the summit, about 100 companies from both countries attended the Korea-UAE business consultation and achieved contracts of a combined $11 million through 257 one-on-one consultations, Lee explained at a press briefing in Abu Dhabi.

During a dinner meeting with accompanying business representatives on Monday, Yoon called himself “a salesman of South Korea,” highlighting his efforts to promote South Korean technologies and businesses.

“It is truly the role of the government to break into markets a company cannot advance into on their own,” Yoon said, according to Kim Eun-hye, senior secretary for public relations at Yoon’s office.

Describing how he is dedicated to work like an employee of a corporate sales department, Yoon vowed to run state affairs with the determination that on the list of priorities: “the first is the economy, the second is the economy, and the third is the economy.”

Yoon’s last scheduled meeting in the UAE early Tuesday was with the Dubai ruler after attending the city’s Future Vision Forum in Dubai, where a science and technology-based future vision was discussed.

At the forum, Yoon said, “Through solidarity and cooperation based on science and technology, we must now overcome common crises that face humanity such as climate change, pandemics, an aging population and low economic growth.”

He added, “At the same time, global solidarity is essential for the joint design and realization of a future that respects human dignity as the preeminent value.”

The forum was attended by scholars and government officials from both countries. Also in attendance were Linda Mills, vice chancellor at New York University, Ray O. Johnson, CEO of the Technology Innovation Institute in Abu Dhabi, and Sarah bint Yousef Al Amiri, the UAE minister of state for public education and advanced technology.

Following the forum, Yoon met with Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who also serves as the UAE’s prime minister, vice president and minister of defense.

During his meeting with the ruler, Yoon said the UAE is leading the climate change response as a chief nation for the COP28 global climate talks this year, and hoped that the talks could generate effective ways to overcome global climate crisis.

In response, the Emirati prime minister said Korea would be a key partner in the process if Dubai proceeds to become one of the world’s top three cities by 2033. He expressed his hopes for UAE’s cooperation in various sectors with Korea.

Joint declaration

Sealing Yoon’s UAE visit was a joint statement signed by Yoon and Emirati leader Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan on Monday in which the $30 billion investment promise by the UAE was stated.

Through the statement, the two countries agreed to strengthen strategic cooperation in key areas including economy, energy, nuclear energy and defense, and to cooperate for peace on the Korean Peninsula.

The leaders acknowledged the partnership as “a platform for further cooperation in clean energy fields” such as production and utilization of hydrogen and ammonia, deployment of clean energy infrastructure and development of industrial ecosystems for renewable energy.

Pledging deeper and faster collaboration in the peaceful nuclear energy sector, the two leaders reaffirmed they will successfully complete the Barakah nuclear power plant project and agreed to jointly pursue additional nuclear projects, whether in the UAE or in other countries.

High-level consultation on nuclear cooperation will be launched as the two seek ways to expand in areas such as evaluating the potential of small modular reactors.

They also recognized the emergence of future mobility, amid a transition toward electric, autonomous or uncrewed driving in the transportation sector. The two leaders agreed to strengthen bilateral policymaking and technological cooperation.

Calling North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear and missile development a serious threat to peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and beyond, they “condemned in the strongest terms North Korea’s record number of ballistic missile launches” last year, which violate multiple UN Security Council resolutions.

Yoon’s Davos debut

Later on in the day on Tuesday, Yoon flew to Switzerland to attend the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, which gathers global political and business leaders.

Yoon, attending the annual conclave for the first time since taking office last May, is among 52 leaders to convene there, although US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping will not be attending.

Yoon will give a special speech at the forum on Thursday under the theme of “Cooperation in a Fragmented World.”

In his speech, Yoon will highlight the need for solidarity to strengthen supply chains, transition to clean energy and realize a digital order, the presidential office said.

He will meet with CEOs of major domestic and foreign companies to introduce Korea’s investment environment and technological competitiveness, the office said.

Yoon was also expected to use the occasion to promote Busan’s bid to host the World Expo in 2030, according to the office.

The government has been making all-out efforts to host the 2030 World Expo, for which the venue will be decided by secret ballot by 171 member countries in Paris at the end of November. Four cities are competing to host the event, with Busan and the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh as the frontrunners. Rome and the Ukrainian city of Odesa are also in the running.

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