Saudi Arabia and South Korea: A fruitful and enduring partnership

Special Saudi Arabia and South Korea: A fruitful and enduring partnership
Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, left, with South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol in Seoul on Nov. 17, 2022. (South Korean Presidential Office/Yonhap via AP)
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Updated 18 November 2022

Saudi Arabia and South Korea: A fruitful and enduring partnership

Saudi Arabia and South Korea: A fruitful and enduring partnership
  • Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman accompanied by high-level delegation including ministers of energy, interior, national guard and foreign affairs
  • With 40 shared projects, South Korea is among the countries cooperating with the Kingdom to help achieve the aims of Vision 2030

RIYADH: The arrival of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Seoul on an official visit to South Korea has underscored the depth of the bilateral relationship 60 years after the two countries established diplomatic ties.

The crown prince and South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol held talks on Thursday, during which they both pledged to strengthen relations in the fields of energy, defense industry and building projects.

Clearly, relations between the two G20 members have come a long way since 1962, when Saudi Arabia forged formal ties with the Republic of South Korea during the reign of King Saud bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud and the presidency of Park Chung-hee.

South Korea opened its embassy in Saudi Arabia in 1973, while the Kingdom’s diplomatic mission in Seoul opened the following year.

South Korea’s Prime Minister Han Duck-soo, left, welcoming Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Seoul. (Saudi Royal Palace)

The partnership assumed a strategic dimension in 2016 when the Saudi crown prince held talks with then-South Korean President Park Geun-hye, on the sidelines of the G20 Leaders’ Summit in Hangzhou, China.

The two leaders acknowledged the need to activate the work of the Saudi-Korean Joint Committee to enhance cooperation in various fields and encourage stronger trade relations. The committee was established more than 40 years ago to strengthen relations and common interests.

In 2017, the two countries launched the Saudi-Korean Vision 2030, forming a joint committee of representatives from relevant government agencies to review the partnership, approve projects, and implement plans.

Vision 2030 is Saudi Arabia’s social reform and economic diversification agenda, launched in 2016 to help wean the Kingdom’s economy off hydrocarbons and to promote youth and women’s participation in new sectors, from leisure and tourism to renewable energy.

South Korea is among eight countries cooperating with the Kingdom to help achieve the aims of Vision 2030, working on 40 shared projects and initiatives.


• 60 years since Saudi Arabia and South Korea established formal ties

• $26,506m volume of trade between the countries in 2021

• 132 South Korean investments in Saudi Arabia valued at $3.66 billion

These projects are divided into five sub-groups: energy and industrialization; infrastructure and smart infrastructure; digital transformation and capacity building; healthcare and life sciences; and small- and medium-sized enterprises.

The crown prince’s visit to South Korea in June 2019, at the invitation of then-President Moon Jae-in, marked another important turning point in relations, with an agreement to expand the scope of cooperation in all aspects of bilateral relations.

Those efforts appear to be paying off. The volume of trade between the Kingdom and South Korea in 2021 amounted to roughly $26,506 million.

S. Korea’s strengths in shipping and manufacturing underpin trade ties with Saudi Arabia, and plans to boost investment in energy, defense and green initiatives will forge wider economic links. (AFP)

The balance of trade that year recorded a surplus in favor of the Kingdom at a value of $19,646 million, with Saudi exports worth $23,076 million and imports from South Korea valued at $3,430 million.

Three of the most prominent Saudi companies have made investments in South Korea worth $6.35 billion. Chief among these is Saudi Aramco, which is active in the coal, oil and gas sectors, with investments worth $5.18 billion.

Others include SABIC, which is active in the chemicals sector, with investments worth $1 billion, and the Advanced Petrochemical Company, which works in the plastics sector and has investments amounting to $168 million.

South Koreans have made 132 investments in the Kingdom with a total value of approximately $3.66 billion. These cover sectors as varied as mining and quarrying, electricity, gas, air conditioning, transportation and storage, manufacturing and construction.

The companies involved in the investments include Samsung, International Maritime Industries, Rabigh Electricity Company, Alia Polymers Company, and Saudi Steel Pipes Company.

Transport makes up a sizeable chunk of trade between Saudi Arabia and South Korea.  (AFP file photo)

Samsung Engineering and Hyundai Group obtained a contract to implement work at the Jafurah gas field project in Saudi Arabia with a value of more than $11 billion.

In 2021, the Saudi Authority for Intellectual Property registered 447 industrial models, 2,881 trademarks, and 543 patents among the filings of Korean companies. Samsung Electronics alone has 145 registered industrial models, while Daewoong Pharmaceutical has the highest number of registered patents, 16 in total.

Saudi Arabia and South Korea also share compatible plans to combat climate change, with the latter aiming to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and the Kingdom aiming for the same goal by 2060.

South Korea’s Prime Minister Han Duck-soo, right, with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Seoul during their meeting.

In January of this year, on the sidelines of the Saudi-Korean Investment Forum in Riyadh, attended by former President Moon Jae-in, the Saudi Public Investment Fund, Korea’s POSCO, and the Construction Division of Samsung C&T announced a tripartite memorandum of understanding to develop a green hydrogen export project.

There is more to the relationship than business and investments, however. The two nations have forged significant cultural ties since the Kingdom opened its doors to entertainment, concerts and world cinema.

South Korean K-pop bands are frequent performers in the Kingdom, a sign of stronger cultural ties between the two countries. (AFP file photo)

K-pop stars Super Junior and BTS have performed in the Kingdom and Korean films and television series have graced its screens, provoking a growing interest in South Korea’s cultural offerings among young Saudis.

Around 175 Saudi students are now studying in South Korea, including many on special scholarships.

Given this scale of investment and the number of cultural exchanges underway, the Saudi-South Korean relationship is likely to be further strengthened by the crown prince’s ongoing visit.


Portugal: Muslim center stabbings not seen as terror attack

Portugal: Muslim center stabbings not seen as terror attack
Updated 17 sec ago

Portugal: Muslim center stabbings not seen as terror attack

Portugal: Muslim center stabbings not seen as terror attack
LISBON, Portugal: Authorities in Portugal said Wednesday that the fatal stabbings of two women at an Ismaili Muslim center in Lisbon was not being treated as a potential act of terrorism.
Investigators have found no indication the man detained in the knife attack was involved in extremist activities, Luis Neves, the head of Portugal’s Judicial Police, said during a news conference.
“There is no sign whatsoever, not one, that suggests this person was radicalized,” Neves said. “This is not being viewed as a terror crime.”
Police said Tuesday they were investigating the stabbings as a possible terror act. At least one person was wounded along with the Portuguese staff members who died.
Local Afghan community representatives have identified the suspect as an Afghan refugee who was known to have psychological problems after his wife died at a refugee camp in Greece.
The man had integrated into Western life and exhibited no radical behavior in his habits, friendships or social media communications, according to Neves.
Authorities said the suspect remained in police custody at a Lisbon hospital and was not expected to appear in court for a week or more. Police reported Wednesday that he was shot when ignored an order to surrender and advanced toward the officers who responded to the Muslim center.
Portuguese Interior Minister José Luis Carneiro said Tuesday the man arrived in Portugal through a European Union program that transfers asylum-seekers to member countries to help relieve pressure on Mediterranean nations such as Greece and Italy.
He said the man’s wife died in a refugee camp in Greece, leaving him to care alone for three children, ages 9, 7 and 4.
The Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims, generally known as the Ismailis, belong to the Shia branch of Islam.
Portugal hasn’t recorded any significant terror attacks in recent decades, and religious violence is virtually unheard of.

UK deputy PM criticized for suggesting ‘safe and legal’ routes for Afghan migrants exist

UK deputy PM criticized for suggesting ‘safe and legal’ routes for Afghan migrants exist
Updated 57 min 37 sec ago

UK deputy PM criticized for suggesting ‘safe and legal’ routes for Afghan migrants exist

UK deputy PM criticized for suggesting ‘safe and legal’ routes for Afghan migrants exist
  • PM Rishi Sunak says he will ask Home Office to reassess case of pilot facing deportation
  • Migrants could be housed offshore on ships to end ‘perverse incentive’ of hotel stays 

LONDON: The UK government has been criticized after the deputy prime minister claimed it had established safe routes for refugees and asylum-seekers to enter Britain.

Speaking to the BBC, Dominic Raab claimed there were “safe and legal” ways for people fleeing Afghanistan to reach the UK.

The UK deputy leader was responding to questions about a former Afghan Air Force pilot facing deportation to Rwanda after having arrived in Britain via countries deemed safe. 

The pilot, who has not been identified out of concerns for the safety of his family in Afghanistan, claimed there were no safe routes, and that he was forced to enter the UK illegally in a small boat across the English Channel.

Raab said: “I don’t want to comment on individual cases. It’s sensitive, it’s not right.”

But asked if it was right to deport people who had fought alongside coalition forces against the Taliban, he added: “That’s why we created a safe and legal route. Getting out of the country has been difficult in Afghanistan. Thousands have; we set up the flights before the evacuation of Kabul, but others can do it via neighboring countries. So there is a safe and legal route for Afghans.”

Raab’s fellow Tory MP and the chair of the UK’s Defense Select Committee, Tobias Ellwood, disagreed, telling The Independent there was “no functioning process” for Afghans to reach the UK, and adding that Britain had a “duty” to those who had worked alongside it in the country — a sentiment echoed by the former head of the Royal Navy, Admiral Lord West.

The UK has two schemes for Afghans seeking asylum. The Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy for those who assisted British forces in Afghanistan has brought over 11,000 people, while the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme is for general applications. 

The latter has managed to resettle just 22 people since the end of the UK’s military-led evacuation process, Operation Pitting, in 2021, while the ARAP scheme has over 4,300 eligible people still stuck in Afghanistan.

Afghans, meanwhile, make up the largest single cohort of people crossing the English Channel illegally in small boats, with over 9,000 making the journey in 2022.

Yvette Cooper, Labour’s shadow home secretary, told The Independent: “The UK government made a solemn promise to the Afghans who helped our armed forces that it would help them and give them sanctuary from the Taliban.

“The failures of this Conservative government to help those that helped us is a source of national shame.”

The pilot, who flew over 30 combat missions against the Taliban and was praised by his Western colleagues as a “patriot to his nation,” believes he has been “forgotten” by his US and UK comrades, adding that it was “impossible” to reach the UK safely and legally under either of the present schemes.

Questioned about the case by a parliamentary committee on Tuesday, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak described the pilot and others like him as “exactly the sort of people we want to help,” adding that he would “happily” ask the Home Office to reassess the case.

Raab, UK foreign secretary during the period when the Taliban retook control of Afghanistan following the withdrawal of coalition forces, also suggested on Wednesday that the UK could house asylum-seekers offshore on giant ships to end the “perverse incentive” of putting people up in hotels indefinitely.

The now deputy PM notoriously initially refused to curtail a holiday as the chaotic situation in Kabul unfolded in 2021, leading to a backlash against the UK’s handling of the withdrawal at home. The UK Foreign Affairs Committee later found that he had attempted to shift the blame for the “disaster” in its aftermath.



Kremlin: Russia’s war against hostile states to last ‘a long time’

Kremlin: Russia’s war against hostile states to last ‘a long time’
Updated 29 March 2023

Kremlin: Russia’s war against hostile states to last ‘a long time’

Kremlin: Russia’s war against hostile states to last ‘a long time’
  • ‘If you are referring to a war in a broader context, a confrontation with hostile states, a hybrid war against our country, then it is going to last for a long time’

MOSCOW: The Kremlin said on Wednesday that Russia’s confrontation with hostile states and what it called a “hybrid war” being waged against it by the West would last a long time.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov made the prediction when asked how long what Russia calls it “special military operation” in Ukraine would last.
“If you are referring to a war in a broader context, a confrontation with hostile states, a hybrid war against our country, then it is going to last for a long time,” Peskov told reporters.
“And here we need to be resolute and self-confident and to consolidate around the president,” he said.

Philippine police seize large stash of drugs in tea bags

Philippine police seize large stash of drugs in tea bags
Updated 29 March 2023

Philippine police seize large stash of drugs in tea bags

Philippine police seize large stash of drugs in tea bags
  • Drug seizure had an estimated street value of $74 million, one the the largest in recent years

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines: Philippine police seized more than 500 kilograms (more than half a ton) of suspected methamphetamine concealed in tea bags Wednesday and arrested a suspected Chinese drug dealer in a northern mountain resort city, police officials said.
The drug seizure in Baguio city had an estimated street value of $74 million (4 billion pesos) and was one of the largest in recent years, officials said.
A drug syndicate apparently hid the suspected drugs, locally known as shabu, in Baguio, a popular tourism destination known for its mountain scenery and pine trees, and not in metropolitan Manila due to an ongoing anti-drugs crackdown in the capital region, Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos and police officials said.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who took office in June, has vowed to press on with his predecessor’s crackdown against illegal drugs, which left thousands of mostly petty drug suspects dead, but said it would be done differently and focus more on rehabilitating drug dependents.

UN human rights chief calls for ‘decisive steps’ to clarify fate of missing Syrians

UN human rights chief calls for ‘decisive steps’ to clarify fate of missing Syrians
Updated 29 March 2023

UN human rights chief calls for ‘decisive steps’ to clarify fate of missing Syrians

UN human rights chief calls for ‘decisive steps’ to clarify fate of missing Syrians
  • Volker Turk urges nations to establish a new entity to address issue
  • Hopes Syrian government realizes nation’s future depends on resolution

NEW YORK: The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk on Tuesday called on the international community to take “decisive steps” to help clarify the fate and whereabouts of missing people in Syria, seek the release of those still detained in the country’s prisons, and provide their families with adequate support.

He urged UN member states to consider establishing a new, dedicated entity that would help bring answers and support to the families of the many thousands of disappeared, and to survivors — “bringing clarity about what has happened to all the people of this wounded and exhausted country.

“We owe the people of Syria no less,” Turk told an informal meeting of the General Assembly to hear a briefing by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on missing people in Syria, adding that the pursuit of justice for missing persons is a prerequisite for lasting peace and reconciliation in the country.

Syria’s permanent representative to the UN Bassam Sabbagh had last week, during a security council meeting, attacked the pursuit of such an international institution, describing it as a “hostile” campaign by the West that is weaponizing the issue of missing people. And to “launch another politicized international mechanism, whose sole aim is to distort facts and increase pressure on a country that has been fighting terrorism on behalf of all the peoples of the world.”

But Turk told Arab News after the meeting he still hopes “the realization will set in with the Syrian government” that there can be no future for the country without addressing the issue of the missing people.

“We have heard from five countries (at the GA meeting) that have gone through conflict, who have had the experience of missing people, who all emphasize one point: You cannot go into any addressing of grievances of your population if you don’t address the fate of missing people.

“I myself having worked for Syrian refugees for many years, I know how important it is for them.”

More than 100,000 Syrians have gone missing or forcibly disappeared at the hands of both the Syrian regime, opposition forces, and terrorist groups since the war began 12 years ago.

A large number of nongovernmental, international, humanitarian, and family organizations work on the Syria missing persons issue, collecting information and following up on cases, including the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Commission on Missing Persons, and the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic. But the lack of coordination leaves victims and survivors and their families in a state of uncertainty, searching for any evidence of their loved ones, and not knowing where to give data and information.

Families have been pushing for a dedicated, independent international institution to clarify their loved ones’ fate that is commensurate with the scale and complexity of the crisis.

Guided by their views and advice, the UN secretary-general issued a report last year that concluded that such an international institution – tasked with a robust mandate to clarify the fate of the missing and provide support for their families — would be the cornerstone of a comprehensive solution to the crisis.

Speaking at the meeting, Guterres urged member states “to act” and work on resolving “this deeply painful situation with determination and urgency,” and called on the Syrian government and all other parties to the conflict to cooperate.

Describing the crisis of missing persons in Syria, Turk painted for the gathering a picture of despair that is “crushing in its enormity,” where children are growing with a “gaping absence where their father should be,” where associating with the family of a missing person could bring on more violence on the community. And where searching for loved ones exposes families to risks of exploitation, physical threat and extortion, demands for payment for information about their whereabouts that may later prove to be false.

He said survivors who have been released after arbitrary detention in Syria have spoken of rampant torture and sexual violence, where “death has been a close and constant neighbor.” After their release, Turk added, many women and girls are shunned by their families on the assumption that they have been raped and so are seen as bringing dishonor on their relatives.

“This harrowing accumulation of trauma has led many women survivors of disappearance to disappear again — by leaving the country — or even to try to kill themselves.”

“The pain, the loss, and the injustice are simply too great.”

The new entity’s tasks will include consolidating existing data and claims, advocating for access to detention sites, and providing support to victims, survivors and their families, to address their psychosocial, legal, administrative and economic needs.