As Kuwait seeks to diversify its oil-heavy economy, Korea is ready to help expedite the transition by fostering partnerships in low-carbon technologies and the service and other knowledge-based industries, Seoul’s new envoy to the Gulf country said.
Shin Boo-nam, former ambassador for climate change and green growth, is anchoring his hopes on Korea’s knowhow in education, healthcare and green technologies, citing these as promising areas for collaboration.
“Kuwait is striving to chart its path to (becoming) a low-carbon economy in line with the global trend and we’d like to share our experience while improving our strategies, which will make a win-win partnership,” he said in a recent interview with The Korea Herald.
The 56-year-old career diplomat began serving as envoy early this month. On account of his environmental expertise, he has held various key positions including deputy representative at the mission to the U.N. in New York, vice chair of the environmental policy committee of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development and director-general for international cooperation at the Environment Ministry.
Ties between Korea and Kuwait have been expanding in line with trade volume, which neared $20 billion in 2013. This marks a sevenfold rise since 2000, according to the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency.
Korea is the No. 1 importer of Kuwaiti goods, and Kuwait the fifth-biggest exporter of Korean products. The Arab country has the world’s sixth-largest oil reserves and is one of the top 10 global exporters of petroleum liquids.
But the recent spike in trade chiefly resulted from a sharp increase in Seoul’s imports of petroleum products including crude oil, naphtha and liquid petroleum gas, which Shin said means there is “great potential” for further cooperation.
Kuwait’s envisioned industrial revamp much overlaps with President Park Geun-hye’s plans to create jobs by nurturing five up-and-coming service industries ― healthcare, education, tourism, finance and software, he noted.
“In the wake of the Arab Spring, the countries in the region are grappling to cater to the growing needs of people for such services as healthcare and education, which Korea is strong in,” the ambassador said.
“The two countries are currently discussing a pilot project for solar energy, and we’re also looking into ways to contribute to an envisioned railway linking the six Gulf Cooperation Council nations.”
Early this month, a Korean consortium won a $12 billion “clean fuel” project to build and upgrade refining and petrochemical facilities in Kuwait in a more eco-friendly way.
SK, GS, Hyundai and other builders have reinforced their presence in the region on the back of their cost-effective yet sophisticated engineering, procurement and construction.
Shin also expressed hopes of Kuwait becoming the third Middle Eastern donor to the Global Green Growth Institute, following the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. The international organization was launched in 2010 by Seoul to finance knowledge and technology transfers between rich and poor countries for low-carbon development.
“We’re now at a critical juncture where the Gulf states are going through a paradigm shift in economic growth and Korea can level-up its cooperation framework with them, as they have long relied on oil trade and construction,” he added.
By Shin Hyon-hee (email@example.com