The Korea Herald


Yoon set for state visits to Saudi Arabia, Qatar

President likely to announce humanitarian support for civilians suffering from Israel conflict

By Shin Ji-hye

Published : Oct. 19, 2023 - 18:06

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President Yoon Suk Yeol (right) and Saudi Arabian Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman shake hands after the Korea-Saudi Arabia meeting and luncheon held at the presidential office in Yongsan, central Seoul, Nov. 17, 2022. (Presidential office) President Yoon Suk Yeol (right) and Saudi Arabian Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman shake hands after the Korea-Saudi Arabia meeting and luncheon held at the presidential office in Yongsan, central Seoul, Nov. 17, 2022. (Presidential office)

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol will embark on state visits to Saudi Arabia and Qatar this weekend to bolster economic and future-oriented tech collaborations with the Middle East countries, amid mounting regional security concerns over the Israel-Hamas conflict.

Kim Tae-hyo, first deputy director of South Korea's National Security Office, told reporters Thursday that Yoon is scheduled to visit Riyadh, the Saudi Arabian capital, from Saturday to Tuesday, followed by Doha, Qatar, for two days. It will be the first state visit by a South Korean leader to the two Middle Eastern nations.

Yoon will begin his official schedule on Sunday, including a summit and luncheon with Saudi Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman after arriving in Riyadh the previous day.

The summit is expected to center on economic cooperation between the two nations.

"Saudi Arabia is our largest trading partner in the Middle East, and we are among the principal partners in Saudi Arabia's national development strategy, 'Saudi Vision 2030,'" Kim said. "This visit presents an opportunity to further enhance our mutually beneficial cooperation."

A high-ranking official from the presidential office, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Yoon aims to broaden cooperation with Saudi Arabia, the country's largest trading partner in the Middle East. The goal is to move beyond the current sectors of energy and construction to future industries like hydrogen, information technology, automobiles, shipbuilding, renewable energy, culture and entertainment.

After the summit, Yoon is set to participate in three economic events: the Korea-Saudi Arabia Investment Forum on Sunday, and both the Korea-Saudi Arabia Future Technology Partnership Forum and the 50th Anniversary Ceremony of Korea-Saudi Arabia Construction Cooperation on Monday. Later that day, he is also scheduled to speak at King Saud University.

On Tuesday, his final day in Saudi Arabia, Yoon will attend the Future Investment Initiative, often referred to as "Davos in the Desert," as a guest of honor. He will discuss current and future cooperative ties between South Korea and the Middle East.

Later that day, Yoon will depart for Doha, Qatar, for a summit meeting and state luncheon with Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the emir of Qatar.

The summit with Qatar is anticipated to center on economic and security cooperation. "Both nations will actively explore avenues to enhance exchanges and collaboration in education, culture and tourism," Kim said.

"Through the visit to Qatar, the South Korean government aims to broaden cooperation beyond energy and construction to encompass areas like investment, defense industry, agriculture, culture and people-to-people exchanges," he said. "We also intend to bolster strategic communication between our two nations."

Following the summit, Yoon plans to attend the Korea-Qatar Business Forum, which will be attended by 300 businesspeople from both countries to encourage the officials. Kim sees the forum as a chance to "strengthen economic ties" in energy sectors like liquefied natural gas, hydrogen, and solar power, and to "pursue collaboration in emerging sectors" such as high-tech, health and culture.

After touring the Doha International Horticultural Expo and Qatar Education City, Yoon will depart for home Wednesday afternoon.

During Yoon's visits to the two Middle Eastern nations, he will be accompanied by business delegations of 130 individuals for Saudi Arabia and 59 for Qatar.

The delegation for Saudi Arabia comprises leaders from major conglomerates, including Samsung Electronics Chairman Lee Jae-yong, Hyundai Motor Group Executive Chairman Chung Euisun, Hanwha Group Vice Chairman Kim Dong-kwan, GS Group Chairman Huh Tae-soo, HD Hyundai President Chung Ki-sun and Doosan Energy Chairman Park Gee-won.

During the summits with Saudi Arabia and Qatar, both of which play mediating roles in the Middle East, Yoon is anticipated to express his intention to offer "humanitarian support" for civilians suffering from the conflict between Israel and the militant group Hamas.

"We are deeply concerned about the swift rise in civilian casualties," Kim said. "From a strictly humanitarian standpoint, we will actively support refugee issues in or near Palestine."