(ATTN: ADDS more comments in paras 4-5, photos; CLARIFIES name and title of Wallan as corrected by the KCCI; TRIMS)
SEOUL, Nov. 17 (Yonhap) -- Business leaders of South Korea and Saudi Arabia discussed ways Thursday to deepen their economic partnership, citing climate change, space technology and bio as new areas the two sides can cooperate on as future investment.
The two nations' governments and companies also signed some 20 memorandums of understanding (MOUs) on infrastructure, chemicals, renewable energy, gaming and various other industries.
The Korea-Saudi Business Council, co-hosted by the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Federation of Saudi Chamber, took place as Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is visiting South Korea on a trip expected to center on enhancing business ties between the two countries. He arrived here late Wednesday.
"Saudi has been revitalizing the economy through open and innovative policy reform and its Vision 2030 has given a boost to investment cooperation between the two countries, which had been dented by the COVID-19 pandemic, by presenting a specific direction," Kim Dong-wook, executive vice president of Hyundai Motor Co. and acting chief of the Korea-Saudi economic cooperation committee, said in a speech.
Fahad Saad Wallan, chairman of Wallan Trading Group, said the importance of the Korea-Saudi relationship is "included in the Vision 2030," expressing hope that the ties will "further deepen through a joint undertaking of various business deals."
Participants at the gathering noted that Riyadh's Vision 2030 reform drive, being pushed for by Prince Mohammed, offers a chance for the two countries to boost investment, especially as both sides have shown keen interest in Saudi's Neom City and Red Sea projects.
The Neom City project seeks to build a new sustainable city incorporating smart technologies and a major tourist site in the northwestern province of Tabuk. The Red Sea project aims to create a luxury tourism destination along the west coast of Saudi Arabia.
The Vision 2030 calls for reducing Saudi's dependence on oil and securing other growth engines. South Korea is one of the five key partner countries picked by Riyadh for the initiative.
The economic cooperation between South Korea and Saudi Arabia should seek to diversify cooperation into climate change, digital and bio technologies, as well as the traditional areas of large infrastructure, construction and energy, Kang Moon-soo, a senior researcher at the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy, said during his presentation at the forum.
"As Korea and Saudi have declared carbon neutrality and been bolstering the push for renewable energy like hydrogen, we need to bring the mutual cooperation closer for energy diversification," Kang said.
"The need for a diverse cooperation also applies to new areas like entertainment, aerospace technology, bio and tourism, as Saudi has been active with its investment in those industries," he said.
Later in the day, the two nations held an investment forum and signed the MOUs meant to boost cooperation and investment in a wide range of sectors, according to Seoul's industry ministry.
Of them, Saudi Arabia's Aramco-owned major oil refiner S-Oil signed three MOUs with a South Korean construction firm for engineering, procurement and construction as part of its push for the second phase of the Shaheen project.
The US$7 billion project calls for building facilities at its plant in the southeastern city of Ulsan in a move to expand its petrochemical business.
It is the largest-ever foreign investment for South Korea and is expected to advance the bilateral cooperation in the refining and petrochemical industry, according to officials.
Other agreements include the Saudi investment ministry's MOU with Hyundai-Rotem Co. on the Neom railway project and an agreement with Lotte Fine Chemical Co. on chemical projects, as well as pacts between Samsung C&T Corp. and the Saudi Public Investment Fund on a modular business and the development of green hydrogen, according to the ministry.
The forum was attended by Seoul's Industry Minister Lee Chang-yang and Saudi Arabia's Investment Minister Khalid Al-Falih, as well as around 200 South Korean government and company officials and 60 officials from the kingdom, it added.
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