As the bitterly cold winter nears its end to give way to the warm spring bloom, the people of the State of Kuwait work busily with excitement in preparation for the nation’s joyous 55th National Day on Feb. 25 and the 25th anniversary of Liberation Day the following day, Feb. 26.
It is my great pleasure and honor to extend warmest greetings to the people and the government of the Republic of Korea. I am most grateful for and proud of the achievements our two nations - The State of Kuwait and the Republic of Korea - have made as true partners ever since the establishment of our diplomatic ties in 1979. Our close and enduring friendship has made it possible for our two nations to cherish and celebrate each other’s happy occasions with utmost respect and sincerity.
|Kuwaiti Ambassador Jasem Albudaiwi|
2015 was a remarkable year for the ever-growing Kuwait-Korea partnership as it witnessed numerous landmark events, the most pivotal being the historical summit meeting between the President of the Republic of Korea, Her Excellency Park Geun-hye, and the Emir of the State of Kuwait, His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, on March 2, 2015, in the capital of the State of Kuwait.
If 2014 was the year of record-breaking trade values, and securing of tenders and contracts in the traditional oil, energy and construction sectors, 2015 was the year of practical measures and efforts for diversification in the Kuwait-Korea partnership. For many years, Kuwait and Korea have strived to pave roads into unexplored areas that could serve as new engines of growth for its bilateral relations, but it was only until President Park’s visit to Kuwait in March, that the two nations created significant momentum towards developing a diversified relationship that would ensure efficient and sustainable growth in both economies.
During President Park’s visit, a total of nine agreements were signed, and among them were memoranda of understanding calling for cooperation in areas ranging from healthcare to transportation as well as an agreement on the mutual waiver of visa requirements for holders of diplomatic, official and special passports.
This meeting between the leaders of the two nations was followed by more notable steps of identifying and seizing new opportunities not only in oil, energy and construction, but also in healthcare, information technology and culture.
In April 2015, Kuwait’s Minister of Health Dr. Ali Al-Obaidi visited Korea to meet the country’s Minister of Health and Welfare Moon Hyung-pyo and draw the roadmap to active cooperation between the two nations in the health care sector.
In May 2015, Marzouq Alghanim, Speaker of the Kuwaiti National Assembly, visited Korea to discuss Korea’s key role in actualizing Kuwait’s ambitious development plan, “Kuwait Vision 2035,” as well as effective strategies to diversify economic cooperation and boost parliamentary cooperation between the two nations.
In June 2015, Yoo Il-ho, former Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transport in Korea, visited Kuwait to meet key personnel in the land and transport sectors and to talk about ways in which Korean firms could support Kuwait’s large-scale development projects.
In October 2015, Engineer Awatef Al-Ghunaim, undersecretary for the Ministry of Public Works in Kuwait, visited Korea to participate in the fifth Session of the Kuwait-Korea Construction Cooperation Committee and to explore new business opportunities in the already thriving construction sector. She introduced to Korean construction companies new projects which the Kuwait government plans to have ready for tendering in the near future.
In November 2015, a delegation led by His Excellency Abdul Wahab Mohammad Al-Wazzan, Second Vice Chairman of the Kuwait Chamber of Commerce & Industry (KCCI), visited Korea to participate in the Kuwait-Korea Business Forum, a three-day event jointly organized by the Chamber and the Korea International Trade Association (KITA) with the objective of promoting bilateral business opportunities between the two nations.
Finally, in December, 2015, “Kuwait Cultural Days in Seoul,” a three-day event of traditional performances by the renowned Kuwaiti band Al-Mass and art exhibitions by famous Kuwaiti artists, was organized and hosted by the Embassy of the State of Kuwait with the aim of raising cultural awareness and boost cultural exchange between the two nations.
|Traditional Kuwaiti goods|
All these high-level visits and events of 2015 indicate that despite worldwide concerns, skepticism and tension coming from the current oil slump, the Kuwait-Korea partnership remains undeterred and has the potential to grow even stronger.
Furthermore, Kuwait’s solid commitment to the ongoing development plan “Kuwait Vision 2035” to revamp the nation into a world class financial and commercial hub serves as further confirmation of the countless possibilities the Kuwait-Korea partnership still holds.
The first five-year plan for the years 2010 through 2015, included a total of 1,100 projects with an estimated $125 billion in value, and although some projects during the period under review were post-posted, they have been set back on track, such as the $4.8 billion Kuwait Airport Expansion project.
The second five-year plan for the years 2015 through 2020 has had a strong start, having already brought an abundance of business to the Kuwait-Korea partnership. In 2015 alone, substantial business opportunities were awarded to Korean firms, including GS Engineering & Construction that won the New Water Center project worth $300 million in September 2015, and SK Engineering & Construction, Hyundai Engineering & Construction, Hyundai Heavy Industries, Daewoo Engineering & Construction and Hanwha Engineering & Construction that won major roles in the $4.6 billion Al-Zour refinery project in October 2015.
|Fireworks in Kuwait|
The Kuwait-Korea partnership’s outlook for 2016 is positive as well.
In the beginning of this year, the Kuwaiti authorities announced that it is looking to sign deals worth $55 billion before the year-end, which is even more than the unprecedented $32.2 billion worth of contracts awarded last year. These contracts are related to various new projects including the additional $3.3 billion LNG Import Regasification Terminal project in the already much talked-about Al-Zour region, where the construction of one of the largest oil refineries and petrochemical complexes in the Middle East is currently underway. There is also the $500 million Sabah Al-Ahmad Hospital project in the south of Kuwait City along with the adoption of the World Health Organization’s recommendation of providing a minimum of 22 hospital beds per 10,000 citizens by 2030.
Plans to provide housing for applicants will finally be carried out through the development of the South Mutlaa city, which will contain 29,000 housing units. This comes only a few years after the Kuwaiti government introduced its plan to deliver 12,000 housing units annually.
As such, Kuwait is firmly committed to its development plan, and hopefully, a wider range of Korean firms will be able to actively participate in fulfilling Kuwait’s reform initiative.
In addition to its progress in nation development, Kuwait has made great accomplishments and contributions in supporting other humanitarian crises around the world. On Sept. 9, 2015, the United Nations celebrated the first anniversary of the Global Humanitarian Leadership Award presented to the Emir of the State of Kuwait, His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, recognizing once again the Emir’s remarkable acts of human kindness and compassion. Kuwait’s foreign policy is aligned with the Emir’s dedication to world philanthropy, and thus the country has shown considerable involvement in international efforts to combat global issues such as extreme poverty, diseases, environmental pollution and terrorism, mainly in partnership with the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED). For instance, Kuwait was the host for the first three International Pledging Conferences for Syria in 2013, 2014 and 2015, during which it pledged $300 million, $500 million and $500 million, respectively. By the end of 2015, the country was ranked the fifth largest donor of humanitarian aid to Syria in the world. Moreover, in the beginning of this year, Kuwait, together with the United Kingdom, Germany, Norway and the United Nations, co-hosted the conference “Supporting Syria and The Region” in London in February 2016, in which over $10 billion was raised in a single day. In the conference, Kuwait demonstrated its firm willingness to provide assistance and support for the Syrian people by pledging an additional $300 million worth of aid.
On the occasion of National Day and Liberation Day, I would like to once again congratulate the tremendous amount of success the State of Kuwait and the Republic of Korea enjoyed in 2015. I am confident that the year 2016 will also prove to be another crucial and triumphant year for the Kuwait-Korea partnership
I avail myself of this opportunity to express my most profound gratitude and convey my best wishes to the well-being and prosperity of the friendly people and the government of the Republic of Korea, and to Her Excellency President Park Geun-hye.