Riyadh, Seoul eye trade expansion

South Korean President Park Geun-hye has called on Saudi and Korean businesspeople to diversify commercial cooperation with an emphasis on nuclear energy, renewable energy, education and health care.
Park said she hoped the two countries would drive the development of the energy industry over the next 20 years. She was speaking at a crowded Saudi-Korean Business Forum here.
The high-profile gathering was attended by several top Saudi and Korean officials, and 300 business leaders from both countries. These included Tawfiq Al-Rabiah, minister of commerce and industry; and Ibrahim Al-Assaf, minister of finance.
Abdullatif A. Al-Othman, governor of the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA); Korean Ambassador Kim Jin-soo; Abdulrahman Al-Zamil, chairman of the Council of Saudi Chambers; and Park Youngmaan, chairman of the Korean Chamber of Commerce and Industry, were also present.
Park also held separate talks with Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, chairman of Kingdom Holding Company.
She met members of the Korean community and answered their questions in a separate session at a local hotel. Later on Wednesday afternoon, the South Korean president met with Hashim Abdullah Yamani, chief of the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy, who has been leading Saudi Arabia’s plans to construct nuclear power plants.
The Korean ambassador told Arab News that “a total of 12 agreements — both public and private sector — have been signed so far.” This includes a joint study on water desalination, and further agreements in the construction and automobile industries.
Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and POSCO Engineering and Construction, an affiliate of the South Korean steel giant, signed an MoU to help the Kingdom develop its own car industry. The deal could be worth around SR4.8 billion. There is speculation that the steelmaker is seeking to sell a 40 percent stake in its construction arm to improve its financial health.
Speaking during the business forum, Al-Rabiah said the trade volume between the two nations exceeded SR170 billion last year with Saudi exports to that country totaling about SR133 billion. “Korean investments in the Kingdom total SR3.4 billion, mostly in industrial and service sector projects,” said SAGIA chief Al-Othman.
Saudi Arabia is South Korea’s fourth-largest trading partner. The two countries have forged closer ties in many sectors. Park visited Masmak Fort before wrapping up her two-day visit to Riyadh. She left for Abu Dhabi on Wednesday evening.

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