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Yoon to visit UAE, Switzerland accompanied by Samsung, Hyundai leaders

Korea’s first state visit to UAE reflects expectations to advance partnership to higher level

By Shin Ji-hye

Published : Jan. 10, 2023 - 17:59

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National Security Advisor Kim Sung-han speaks at a press briefing on Tuesday afternoon. (Yonhap) National Security Advisor Kim Sung-han speaks at a press briefing on Tuesday afternoon. (Yonhap)

President Yoon Suk Yeol will make a state visit to the United Arab Emirates as his first overseas trip this year and will attend the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, putting an emphasis on economic diplomacy and all-out efforts to attract the 2030 Expo.

“President Yoon will make a state visit to the UAE at the invitation of President Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan during Jan. 14-17, and he will attend the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland during Jan. 18-19,” said National Security Advisor Kim Sung-han at a press briefing on Tuesday afternoon.

This is the first state visit by a Korean president to the UAE since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two nations in 1980. There have been about 14 mutual visits between the leaders of the two countries so far, but neither side has ever had a state visit.

“President Yoon’s first state visit to the UAE reflects the two countries’ expectations to advance the special strategic partnership between Korea and the UAE to a higher level,” Kim said.

During his visit to the UAE, President Yoon will hold a summit and state lunch with President Mohammed, visit the Akh unit and Barakah nuclear power plant, and participate in economic and energy-related events, Kim said.

The Akh unit has been dispatched by South Korea since 2011 to train UAE special forces at the request of the UAE government. The Barakah nuclear power plant project is Korea’s first overseas nuclear power plant construction project, led by a consortium dubbed "Team Korea.” Both were made under the former Lee Myung-bak administration.

Kim said the discussion of the detailed schedule is still “underway” between the two countries.

After completing the visit to the UAE, President Yoon will move to Zurich, Switzerland, on Jan. 17 and hold a meeting with Korean compatriots. On Jan. 18, he will move to Davos and will have a luncheon meeting with CEOs of major Korean and foreign companies. Yoon will give a speech on Jan. 19 at the Davos Forum the next day.

Focus on economic diplomacy

At the press briefing, senior economic secretary Choi Sang-mok evaluated the UAE as "a key cooperative country in the fields of nuclear power, defense and infrastructure, which we are fostering as new export engines, and an optimal partner for economic-oriented summit diplomacy."

Choi said Yoon’s this trip to the UAE and Switzerland would center on economic diplomacy to strengthen cooperation in various fields with state and business leaders. A business delegation of about 100 companies will accompany him on this tour, with about 70 percent being small and medium-sized firms.

During the luncheon with CEOs from Korean and foreign companies on Jan. 18 in Davos, Switzerland, Yoon plans to discuss ways to cooperate with the government and the private sector to overcome the complex crisis and sustain growth, introduce economic policy directions centered on the private market and investment cooperation in Korea, Choi said.

The luncheon will be attended by Samsung Electronics Chairman Lee Jae-yong, SK Chairman Chey Tae-won, Hyundai Motor Chairman Chung Euisun, LG Chairman Koo Kwang-mo, Lotte Chairman Shin Dong-bin and Hanwha Vice Chairman Kim Dong-kwan. CEOs of leading global firms, including Intel, IBM, Qualcomm and JPMorgan will also attend the event.

Yoon’s debut at Davos Forum

It is the first time for Yoon, who took office in May last year, to attend the Davos Forum.

National security adviser Kim said Yoon plans to carry out “economic and security diplomacy, sales diplomacy and public diplomacy in three dimensions” by attending the forum.

“In-depth consultations will take place on the direction we should go amid climate change, economic slowdown and the geopolitical crisis,” he said.

Yoon will give a special speech on Jan. 19 at the Davos Forum held under the theme of “Cooperation in a Fragmented World."

Through the address, he will “set the path for international cooperation and solidarity” to strengthen supply chains, transition to clean energy and realize the digital order, Kim said.

“President Yoon will promote Korea’s favorable investment environment and technological competitiveness to global leaders attending the forum and will also develop public diplomacy to attract the 2030 Expo,” he added.

The government has been making all-out efforts to attract the 2030 Expo. The venue will be decided by secret ballot by 171 member countries in Paris at the end of November. Four cities are competing to host the event: Busan, Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, Rome in Italy, and Odesa in Ukraine. The final competition is expected to take between Busan and Riyadh.

On the last day of his trip, Yoon plans to visit ETH Zurich, one of the top universities in Switzerland, and meet with scholars in the field of quantum technology to discuss science and technology cooperation before returning home.

Choi said quantum technology, which can dramatically increase computation speed compared to supercomputers, is “a game changer that will bring innovation to all industries and security,” and competition to secure it is accelerating among the US, the European Union, Japan and China.

“Through this visit, we will exchange opinions on the success factors that enabled Switzerland to become a quantum technology powerhouse and strategies that latecomer Korea should take, and will build a human network between scientists from the two countries,” Choi said.