Saudi Arabia, South Korea sign deals worth $30bn during crown prince’s visit

Saudi Arabia, South Korea sign deals worth $30bn during crown prince’s visit
Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, left, shakes hands with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol to leave the presidential residence after a meeting in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022. (South Korean Presidential Office/Yonhap via AP)
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Updated 18 November 2022

Saudi Arabia, South Korea sign deals worth $30bn during crown prince’s visit

Saudi Arabia, South Korea sign deals worth $30bn during crown prince’s visit
  • Some 26 agreements signed, including on energy, NEOM
  • Korean president seeks to take bilateral relations to new level through Saudi Vision 2030

SEOUL: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman held talks with South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol in Seoul on Thursday, paving the way for multibillion-dollar bilateral cooperation in space technology, energy, infrastructure, and NEOM, the Kingdom’s giga-project.

The Saudi crown prince was on a two-day official visit to South Korea, arriving straight from the G20 Summit in Bali, Indonesia. He was accompanied by a high-profile delegation, including the ministers and heads of top government institutions related to investment and commerce.

The South Korean president said there were plans for more cooperation as it was time to “take the relationship to a new level through Saudi Vision 2030.”  

A strategic framework, Vision 2030 is an effort to pivot Saudi Arabia away from oil dependency and establish it as a global investment powerhouse with a sophisticated digital infrastructure. The Kingdom is estimated to have mobilized around $500 billion to achieve its goals, including the development of new cities.  

“In the future, Korea hopes to expand and develop cooperation in investment in new growth areas, and participation in megaprojects such as NEOM,” Yoon said in a press release after the meeting.


The presidential office said that in the field of energy the two leaders discussed projects related to hydrogen fuel, carbon capture technology, and small reactor development.

In the field of infrastructure, the talks covered the involvement of Korean companies in Vision 2030 projects, while in the field of defense they focused on cooperation in the development of hardware and software to strengthen Saudi security capabilities.

The two sides also agreed to develop the bilateral relationship into a “future-oriented strategic partnership,” and the Saudi crown prince said the Kingdom would seek to intensify coordination to boost its ambitions toward it.

“We look forward to raising the pace of investment coordination and strengthening the partnership between the public and private sectors,” the crown prince said, as quoted by the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“We stress the importance of benefiting from the promising commercial and investment opportunities available for cooperation between our two countries.”

The visit coincided with the Korea-Saudi Investment Forum, in which 26 agreements were signed by Saudi companies and their Korean counterparts to cooperate on clean energy projects, transportation, housing, and construction in NEOM — the Saudi smart city project overseen by the crown prince.

The memoranda of understanding included a $7 billion plan by Saudi Aramco, the Kingdom’s state oil and energy company, to expand a petrochemicals refinery of its South Korean affiliate S-Oil Corp.

The project, Shaheen, is the biggest foreign investment into South Korea, said Trade, Industry and Energy Minister Lee Chang-yang during the forum.

He said: “It is a representative success story leading the low carbon and high value-added oil industry by utilizing the complementary energy and industrial structure of Korea and Saudi Arabia.”

The South Korean minister told the forum’s participants that the partnership between the two countries has opened a new horizon for expanding and developing into “global economic cooperation.”

Just weeks ahead of the investment forum, South Korea launched a council involving both government and private sectors to promote corporate advancement into the Middle East, especially Saudi Arabia.

The Kingdom and South Korea took a historic step in their relationship when the crown prince made his first official trip to Seoul in 2019.

Steady growth

According to an economic report issued by the Federation of Saudi Chambers, the Saudi-Korean Joint Committee and the Saudi-Korean Vision 2030 includes as many as 40 projects and initiatives across the targeted sectors.

The report also indicated steady growth in the volume of trade exchange between both countries which amounted to SR470 billion ($12.5 billion) over the past five years.

In 2021 alone, the volume of trade exchange hit SR100 billion, SR87 billion of which were exports to Korea and SR13 billion were Korean imports to the Kingdom.

Earlier, South Korea’s industry ministry said companies including Samsung C&T Corp. and POSCO Holdings Inc. had signed over 20 agreements with Saudi counterparts in fields such as energy cooperation, railways, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and gaming.

Saudi-based Asharq TV quoted the Kingdom’s investment minister as saying deals signed on Thursday were worth $30 billion. It also quoted the Saudi Venture Capital Company as saying it had agreed to establish seven specialized funds.

Among the agreements, Korea Electric Power Corp. and four other Korean firms signed a memorandum of understanding with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund to build and operate a hydrogen and ammonia production plant in the Kingdom, the company said.

The project will be worth about $6.5 billion, said a source with knowledge of the deal, who was not authorized to speak with media on the matter and declined to be named.

The plant is expected to produce 1.2 million tons of green hydrogen and ammonia annually, KEPCO said. It is to be built over 2025-2029 and operate for 20 years, the Yonhap news agency reported on Thursday, citing industry sources.

Another pact is Hyundai Rotem Co’s memorandum of understanding with Saudi Arabia to cooperate on a railway project for the Middle Eastern country’s $500 billion NEOM economic zone and smart city, the ministry said. It did not disclose the potential dollar amount of this agreement.

“The (South Korean) government will actively support the successful implementation of cooperative projects which apply Korea’s state-of-the-art architecture ... in NEOM,” said South Korea’s trade minister, Lee Chang-yang.

Hyundai Rotem shares rose 8.5 percent, versus a 1.1 percent drop in the wider market. Shares in Lotte Fine Chemical , which signed an agreement for chemical industry cooperation with the Saudi Ministry of Investment, rose 2.1 percent.

(With Reuters)