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Korea, Qatar sign $4.6B in deals during Yoon’s state visit

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President Yoon Suk Yeol, left, speaks with Qatar's Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani at a ceremony for signing memorandums of understanding during their bilateral summit at the Amiri Diwan palace in Doha on Wednesday. This marks the first state visit by a Korean president to Qatar. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]
President Yoon Suk Yeol, left, speaks with Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani at a ceremony for signing memorandums of understanding during their bilateral summit at the Amiri Diwan palace in Doha on Wednesday. This marks the first state visit by a Korean president to Qatar. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]

Korea and Qatar signed deals amounting to some $4.6 billion during President Yoon Suk Yeol’s bilateral summit with Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in Doha on Wednesday.

Yoon was greeted in an official welcoming ceremony, followed by bilateral talks, a ceremony to sign memorandums of understanding (MOU) and a state luncheon, according to the presidential office.

Yoon is the first Korean president to make a state visit to Qatar.

The two sides discussed expanding cooperation beyond energy and construction to investment, defense, agriculture, culture and people-to-people exchanges.

The two sides agreed to expand security and defense industry cooperation as they upgraded bilateral relations to a “comprehensive strategic partnership,” according to the office.

HD Hyundai Heavy Industries and QatarEnergy, a state-run petroleum company, signed a $3.9 billion contract to supply 17 liquefied natural gas (LNG) carriers. The presidential office said this was the largest single contract in the history of the domestic shipbuilding industry.

HD Hyundai Heavy Industries has secured six months’ work, and Korean companies’ share of global LNG carrier orders this year increased from 74 percent to 81 percent, according to the presidential office.

The two countries saw the signing of agreements in fields including smart farming, cutting-edge technology in construction and architecture, national spatial information and small and medium-sized venture cooperation.

They also signed a trade and investment promotion framework to expand industrial cooperation to new fields such as supply chains, digital technology and health care.

During the summit, Yoon emphasized the symbiotic relationship between Korea’s cutting-edge manufacturing technology and the industrial development experience of its companies in relation to large-scale infrastructure projects being pursued by Qatar.

Yoon attended a Korea-Qatar business forum with some 250 businesspeople from both countries later Wednesday, which produced 10 MOUs, according to the presidential office.

The MOUs signed on this day included one on solar power generation cooperation between Samsung C&T and the Qatar Free Zones Authority and another on SW Mobility and Protocol Capital on cooperation on autonomous cars for public transportation.

Trade between the two countries increased from $4 million in 1974, when bilateral diplomatic relations were established, to $17.1 billion last year.

On Tuesday, Yoon and first lady Kim Keon Hee landed on the presidential jet at Hamad International Airport near Doha after wrapping up a four-day state visit to Saudi Arabia.

He was accompanied by a 59-member business delegation, including representatives of emerging industries such as digital technology, biohealth, smart farming and cultural content.

Immediately after arriving in Doha, Yoon attended the opening of the Korean pavilion at the 2023 International Horticultural Exposition later Tuesday. Some 80 countries are participating in the horticultural expo, and the Korean pavilion showcased an outdoor garden with a smart farming exhibition hall.

The two countries will mark the 50th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations next year.

Yoon on Wednesday also held a dialogue with youths in a visit to Hamad Bin Khalifa University in Qatar’s Education City, home to many prestigious global educational institutes, with some 10,000 students.

President Yoon Suk Yeol speaks at a bilateral business forum in Doha on Wednesday. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]
President Yoon Suk Yeol speaks at a bilateral business forum in Doha on Wednesday. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]

Through cooperation with the “big three” Middle Eastern countries — Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates — “a huge playing field” worth a total of $79.2 billion has been created for Korean companies hoping to enter this market, Choi Sang-mok, senior presidential secretary for economic affairs, said in a press briefing.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman made a surprise visit to Yoon’s guesthouse at Tuesday as the Korean leader wrapped up his visit to Riyadh, the presidential office said.

The two sides talked for around 23 minutes, following up on their bilateral summit on Sunday.

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The crown prince then rode Yoon to an investment forum 15 minutes from the guesthouse. He expressed hopes to ride together in a Hyundai electric vehicle (EV) manufactured in Saudi Arabia next time the Korean president visits, according to Lee Do-woon, the presidential spokesman.

As his last schedule in Saudi Arabia before departing for Qatar, Yoon spoke at the Future Investment Initiative forum in Riyadh, or the “Davos in the Desert.”

The Saudi crown prince stayed through Yoon’s speech, stressing that “Korea is an innovative and trustworthy partner” after driving him to the event.

Yoon will wrap up his six-day Middle East tour and return to Korea on Thursday.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]