SEOUL, July 9 (Yonhap) -- The following is the full text of an opinion piece titled, "A Model Partnership Made Even Stronger by COVID-19" by Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE minister of foreign affairs and international cooperation.
It was provided exclusively to Yonhap News Agency.
The minister arrived in South Korea on Thursday for talks with Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
A Model Partnership Made Even Stronger by COVID-19
On the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the establishment of formal diplomatic ties between the United Arab Emirates and South Korea, the UAE wishes to express its sincere and deep appreciation to the people of South Korea for the special and prosperous relationship that we share. This year, the world experienced an extraordinary situation due to the unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 global health crisis, wherein our two countries demonstrated the value of our friendship and proved what two countries with shared interests, goals, and values can accomplish with close collaboration.
As COVID-19 transmitted across national borders over the past months, South Korea was one of the first countries to battle the outbreak. In the process, South Korea acquired valuable knowledge and expertise, which it has shared openly with us and the rest of the international community. South Korean expertise formed a significant part of the 'best practices' framework that is now widely recognized as critical to stopping the spread of the virus. South Korea acted early and responsibly to stem the spread of COVID-19 and in the process became an international model for other countries to follow.
The UAE is proud to highlight that it has used the South Korean experience to form its own domestic response to the virus while keeping essential global logistical services operating. We assisted the evacuation of South Korean citizens and their families from Tehran at the height of the outbreak in the region and kept passenger and trade links to Seoul open as long as we could before we had to temporarily close our borders.
We would also like to express appreciation to South Korea for prioritizing the export of critical COVID-19 testing and medical supplies such as swabs to the UAE. Having managed the situation within our own borders, both the UAE and South Korea worked to deliver to other countries the assistance they needed in line with our shared commitment to humanitarian principles.
Located in strategic and volatile regions, our two countries support the prosperity and stability of the countries around us. We therefore seek to limit reckless expansionism and extremism -- whatever their source -- by promoting collective and collaborative action in our regions within the framework of international law. Because of the challenges we have faced, separately and together, we see cohesion and cooperation not as optional, but essential for both our countries.
We have also used our bilateral relationship to model the relations we seek with other countries. The UAE and South Korea have broken down barriers to travel, increased reciprocal investment, and committed to promoting cultural and other forms of exchange. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, there were 14 weekly direct flights between South Korea and the UAE, and we hope that this number will grow in the future once the COVID-19 situation improves and restrictions are eased. Recognizing the close ties between our peoples, we were deeply proud to launch the UAE-Korea Cultural Dialogue 2020 in January to mark 40 years of diplomatic ties and celebrate Emirati and Korean culture in both countries.
The UAE-South Korea relationship has grown steadily and significantly since the two countries established formal relations in 1980. Over the years, the UAE looked to South Korea for its expertise in manufacturing and technology, and South Korea turned to the UAE in logistics, trade and tourism in the Middle East. The relationship reached a significant milestone when the UAE signed contracts with the Korean Electric Power Company, Hyundai, and Samsung C&T to help build the Arab world's first nuclear power plant. When it is fully operational, the Barakah nuclear power plant will meet 25% of the UAE's domestic energy needs, which in the process will cut greenhouse gas emissions by 21 million tons annually. It should also be noted that our two countries maintain a firm partnership in the conventional energy sector, with major agreements signed in the oil and gas fields.
In 2018, our two countries recognized that our relationship was different and special across all levels and chose to further promote and formalize this bond in a Special Strategic Partnership that mapped out how both countries could leverage advantages and opportunities to build new markets and economic channels outside South Korea and the UAE.
Today, the UAE-South Korea commercial partnership spans a large number of fields and activities, including commodities trade, technology development, energy research and development, financial services, logistics, health, food security, and agriculture, to name a few key sectors. Our non-oil bilateral trade stands at nearly USD 5 billion dollars, and there are currently more than 50 Korean companies based in the UAE, which is home to over 10,000 South Korean nationals. While these numbers are strong, both sides view this as the beginning of a much deeper and broader relationship through which we will provide joint solutions to a larger array of markets.
It is thus fitting that South Korea has a position of pride at Expo 2020 Dubai, which will be held in 2021 due to the current circumstances facing the world caused by COVID-19. We welcome South Korea's commitment to a strong participation in this historic Expo, which falls on the UAE's 50th anniversary as a nation.
In conclusion, I would like to express my personal and sincere appreciation to my counterpart, Her Excellency Kang Kyung-Wha, Foreign Minister of the Republic of South Korea, for extending me the honor of being the first foreign official to visit your country since the COVID-19 outbreak. My visit today is a testament to the mutual value and respect the leadership of the UAE and South Korea hold for one another and our optimistic vision of a post COVID-19 world– a future we will help shape together.
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