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(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on Jan. 18)

Editorials from Korean dailies 06:56 January 18, 2023

Practical ways and trust building are key

President Yoon Suk Yeol has wrapped up his four-day trip to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Yoon's biggest achievement in his state visit was drawing investments from the Middle East country. In a summit with Yoon, UAE President Mohammed bin Zayed bin Al-Nahyan promised a $30 billion investment in Korea. The figure is the largest of all state-level investment deals the UAE signed with a foreign country. The two leaders also signed 48 MOUs and contracts in Abu Dhabi.

The Middle East is the land of opportunity for Korea. Young leaders in the region are bent on changing economic structure to reduce their heavy reliance on oil to prepare for the post-petroleum era. The UAE is particularly interested in energy and defense, as seen in its aggressive investments in building nuclear power plants. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman also pushes the ambitious Neom City project at a cost of $500 billion. Korea can take advantage of a second Middle East boom.

To achieve the goal, what matters is trust building. The UAE president said, "We decided to invest in Korea because of our trust in the country that keeps its promise under any circumstances." His comment came from the mutual trust built since 2009 after the UAE commissioned the construction of four nuclear power plants in Barakah that year. Since the reactors No.1 and No. 2 were activated in 2021 and 2022, respectively, they have produced 15 percent of all electricity needs of the country and 60 percent of the demand in the capital. Korean companies involved in the construction of the nuclear plants have never violated their contracts.

In his memoir, former president Lee Myung-bak attributed the success to his administration's emphasis on "building cooperative relations just like brothers" after considering the unique sentiment of Middle East countries cherishing friendship and to his government's promise of cooperation in the military, education and technology fronts. After watching a demonstration by the Korean special forces during a visit to Korea in 2010, President Mohammed extolled it and requested Korea send a contingent of the special forces to his country for training. In the following year, the Akh Unit was dispatched to the UAE.

The UAE president's description of Korea as his "second home" shows a long journey for trust building. A practical mind as suggested by Yoon's recent comment — "I am the salesperson of Korea" — and the trust building as represented by Mohammed's statement "Korea is my second home" are the key words for Korea's sales diplomacy in the Middle East and beyond.

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