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S. Korea pledges support for Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, peace in Middle East

Additional $15.6b investment deals, MOUs from Saudi companies expected during Yoon's visit, office says

Oct. 22, 2023 - 23:15 By Shin Ji-hye


President Yoon Suk Yeol, who is on a state visit to Saudi Arabia, holds an extended Korea-Saudi Arabia summit meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the Al Yamamah Palace in Riyadh on Sunday. (Yonhap)

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia -- Leaders of South Korea and Saudi Arabia discussed strengthening economic ties by expanding Seoul's involvement in Riyadh's "Vision 2030" plan and to contribute to peace in the region amid the Israel-Palestine conflict.

During the summit, President Yoon Suk Yeol and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman followed up on the investment promise of the $29 billion worth of contracts and memorandums of understanding signed during the prince's visit to Seoul in November.

Yoon's economic secretary Choi Sang-mok said, ahead of the summit, that more than 60 percent of that figure has now progressed to actual projects.

During Yoon's state visit to the kingdom, additional $15.6 billion in contracts and memorandums of understanding were signed among Korean and Saudi Arabian companies at the investment forums held on the sidelines of the summit, he added. Approximately 50 MOUs and contracts were signed in fields such as energy, infrastructure, advanced manufacturing and new industries.

The two leaders discussed measures to strengthen cooperation on energy security amid instability in the global energy market caused by rising international oil prices.

Yoon emphasized Saudi Arabia's importance to Korea as a trusted and cooperative crude oil supplier, while planning to discuss measures for a continuous and stable supply of oil.

Through the summit, the Korea National Oil Corporation signed a contract with Saudi Arabia’s state owned petroleum and natural gas company Aramco for the joint storage of 5.3 million barrels of oil, according to Choi.

Aramco will store and sell the oil at the Ulsan storage base by 2028. In the event of a domestic petroleum supply emergency, South Korea will have priority in purchasing the stored oil, and will receive rental income during the five-year lease period.

Amid ongoing turmoil in the Middle East, the president's visit, flanked by a substantial business delegation, underscored South Korea’s strategic pivot toward economic diplomacy and deepening cooperation in various sectors including technology, energy and infrastructure.

In an interview published by the Al Riyadh news outlet the same day, Yoon said he would talk with the crown prince on growing security instability fueled by North Korea's nuclear and missile provocations, armed conflicts between Israel and Hamas, and the war in Ukraine.

"The summit will be an opportunity to exchange views on how they can contribute to global peace and sustainable development," he said.

He said, in particular, the "Korea-Saudi Vision 2030 Committee" at the ministerial level serves as a platform for economic cooperation between the two nations, playing a pivotal role in advancing bilateral relations across fields including automotive, shipbuilding, biotechnology, and culture.

“Korea is one of Saudi Arabia’s key cooperation countries for realizing Vision 2030, and cooperation is expected to expand in the future not only in the construction and infrastructure field but also in various fields such as energy, investment and culture.”

Yoon's press secretary Kim Eun-hye, told reporters that Yoon believes South Korea, facing a complex and external crisis, can find solutions through a new Middle East boom, as the country did in the past.

As Saudi Arabia transitions to a digital science and technology industrial nation in the post-oil era, preparing for huge projects, such as the 2030 vision for Neom City, Kim said, South Korea will “stand as its optimal partner.”

In the interview with Al Riyadh, Yoon also described Saudi Arabia as having “immense potential for future growth” due to its young population, noting that there are “endless possibilities” for mutually beneficial cooperation between Saudi Arabia’s potential and South Korea’s technologies. Particularly, he saw “substantial potential” for cooperation in areas such as hydrogen supply chains and renewable energy.

Yoon's visit serves as a reciprocal gesture to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s trip to South Korea in November of the previous year, marking the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two nations. This year also celebrates the 50th anniversary of South Korean companies entering the Saudi construction market.

During Crown Prince Mohammed’s visit to South Korea last November, contracts and memorandums of understanding totaling $29 billion were signed across various sectors, including clean energy, petrochemicals, smart farming and biotechnology. Yoon is the first South Korean leader invited for a state visit to Saudi Arabia, according to officials.