QATAR - Diplomacy
former Prime Minister, Republic of Korea
HE Chung Hongwon assumed office as the 42nd Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea on February 26, 2013. He began his career as a teacher in Seoul before passing the Judicial Examination in 1972. He served in various posts in major prosecutors’ offices for almost 30 years after joining the public service in 1974. He also served as President of the Judicial Research and Training Institute 2003-04, Resident Commissioner (Minister) of the National Election Commission 2004-06, and President of the Korea Legal Aid Corporation from 2008-11. He received his Bachelor’s degree in Law from Sung Kyun Kwan University in 1971 and studied at the Graduate School of Public Administration, Seoul National University in 2004.
When the Republic of Korea inaugurated its embassy in the State of Qatar in April 1974, Qatar was just embarking on its journey toward development. This year, 2014, marks 40 remarkable years of successful friendship and mutual collaboration. During the past 40 years, Korea and Qatar have forged a strong partnership and close bond, demonstrated by ever-expanding bilateral cooperation in various sectors, most evident in the fields of construction and energy.
Indeed, Qatar and Korea have become very important strategic allies over the years, especially in the field of energy. Korea took part in Qatar with RasGas and acquired a 5% share in the very first LNG train of RasGas. Korean companies have participated in numerous iconic projects, including the Sheraton Hotel in the 1970s. In return, Qatar has been supporting Korea’s iconic projects, including the agreements to export up to 10 million tons of LNG annually. Recognizing the importance of bilateral economic relations, the Republic of Korea and the State of Qatar are making efforts to further strengthen the strategic partnership.
The Korea-Qatar partnership in the energy and construction sectors goes back many years and remains strong to this day. With bilateral trade volume reaching $26.7 billion, Qatar is the single-largest supplier of LNG and the fifth-largest supplier of oil to Korea as of 2013. Currently, Korean companies are conducting about 19 construction projects worth over $7.5 billion in Qatar, including large-scale projects, as of 2013.
While energy and the construction sector continue to be the pillars of our economic relations, both our countries are currently exploring additional areas of cooperation. Currently, bilateral cooperation has expanded to areas such as the environment (waste water treatment and green growth), the industrial sector (Joint LED Project and the SME sector), as well as potential joint investment projects in third countries. These are the areas where successful cooperation can be achieved with the combination of Korea’s technological prowess and Qatar’s strong financial backing.
I hope that both our countries continue to work hard to open up new opportunities for cooperation in the future. For this, we need to identify new areas of cooperation, in which both countries feel comfortable to partner with each other. Since Korea and Qatar still do not have a good example of a joint investment, launching a joint investment scheme in third countries will be a good starting point in that we could establish useful mechanisms during the process. Also, Korea has hosted many international events such as the Olympics, the Asian Games, and the FIFA World Cup. In addition to having the required infrastructure, the Korean government and Korean sporting institutions that provided assistance in these events have a significant amount of information and experience in organizing events successfully. This could prove to be useful for Qatar in hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Additionally, bilateral collaboration should be expanded to fields such as green growth, manufacturing, education, health, defense, and culture. Korea is committed to go ahead with its development in accordance with green growth principles to address the climate change challenge. Qatar has also expressed that it wants to focus its economic and infrastructure development on sustainable growth and green practices such as promoting renewable energy and efficient resource management. An efficient and systematic knowledge-sharing program would go a long way in helping the two countries meet such goals. I am positive that Korea will continue to be a major ally in Qatar a development in the future, not just in the fields of construction and energy, but also in other areas that hold a lot of potential.