South Korea's Army held a send-off ceremony for some 130 elite combat troops set to be dispatched to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to help train the Middle East nation's special forces. (Yonhap News)
South Korea's Army held a send-off ceremony Monday for some 130 elite combat troops set to be dispatched to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to help train the Middle East nation's special forces, officials said.
The deployment to the UAE, set for Tuesday, comes about a month after the National Assembly endorsed it following a South Korean consortium winning a US$20 billion deal in late 2009 to build nuclear reactors in the oil-rich country.
President Lee Myung-bak called the dispatch an opportunity to contribute to South Korea's national interest and international peace.
"For the Republic of Korea, this dispatch is a new model of military cooperation aimed at sharing our training experience with the United Arab Emirates in a non-conflict region," Lee said in a speech read by Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin at the ceremony, referring to South Korea by its official name.
Lee said the dispatch will "significantly help solidify our energy security and expand trade in the Middle East."
The main roles for the Korean special forces will be helping educate and train their UAE counterparts, engaging in joint exercises and protecting South Korean citizens in case of emergencies, officials said.
The Korean contingent will not be tasked with protecting South Korean workers, who will begin construction of the nuclear power plants early this year.
The unit "Akh," meaning brother in the Arabic language, will be based in the eastern region of Al Ain for two years. An advance team of 10 troops arrived there last month ahead of the main deployment.
Some 600 people, including Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Han Min-koo and families of the troops, attended the ceremony. Since early last month, the troops have received four weeks of training for the overseas mission.
Col. Choi Han-oh, commander of the Akh unit, said his troops were committed to successfully carrying out their duty.
"As a representative of the Republic of Korea, we will contribute to upgrading the national profile of our country by thoroughly carrying out our mission," Choi said. (Yonhap News)