UAE controversy unabated despite top official’s visit

By Choi He-suk
  • Published : Jan 8, 2018 - 17:05
  • Updated : Jan 8, 2018 - 17:05
A visit to South Korea by a leading United Arab Emirates figure on Monday has raised more speculations surrounding presidential chief of staff Im Jong-seok’s visit to the UAE last month.

Khaldoon Khalifa al-Mubarak of Abu Dhabi -- chief of Abu Dhabi’s Organization & Administration Department and a key associate of Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan -- arrived in Seoul on Monday.

However, with the exception of his meeting with National Assembly Speaker Rep. Chung Sye-kyun, little has been made public about al-Mubarak’s tight schedule. The UAE politician and entrepreneur is scheduled to leave South Korea in the early hours of Wednesday. 

Khaldoon Khalifa al-Mubarak of Abu Dhabi arrives in Seoul on Jan. 8, 2018. (Yonhap)

It has been speculated that al-Mubarak will meet with Im and may even meet with President Moon Jae-in to discuss ways to improve Seoul-UAE ties, and discuss Moon possibly attending the ceremony marking the completion of the first South Korean-built nuclear reactor in the UAE in June.

The controversy surrounding South Korea-UAE relations was sparked in December following the revelation that Im was sent as the president’s special envoy to the UAE and Lebanon on Dec. 9 on a four-day visit.

The news sparked off a series of allegations, ranging from reports that Im was dispatched to smooth over discord arising from the Moon administration’s nuclear power policies to those accusing previous conservative administrations of making under-the-table deals.

Rep. Kim Jong-dae of the minor opposition Justice Party has claimed that at least five military memorandums of understanding were signed between Seoul and the UAE during the Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye administrations.

According to Kim, the memorandums stated that South Korea would support the UAE in a military conflict, and that the contents of the documents are tantamount to a military treaty, which requires the National Assembly’s ratification.

Al-Mubarak’s arrival appears to have pushed the main opposition Liberty Korea Party to reel back its attack against the administration.

The conservative party has been alleging that Im’s visit to the UAE was a “diplomatic disaster” and called for a parliamentary investigation into the issue. Following al-Mubarak’s arrival, however, the party has taken a softer approach, saying that it will monitor the situation, and that it will question Im at a meeting of the parliamentary House Steering Committee.

By Choi He-suk (