- Special Pages
by Azmat Haroon
Doha: As Qatar and South Korea mark 40 years of diplomatic ties next year, the East Asian country is aiming to diversify business cooperation from large corporations to small and medium enterprises.
A series of cultural and academic programmes will also be launched to celebrate the partnership, according to the South Korean ambassador.
“We not only have large corporations such as Samsung and Hyundai, we have strong and trustworthy small and medium-sized companies as well,” Keejon Chung (pictured) told The Peninsula.
A South Korean company recently signed an agreement with the Sheikh Faisal Group on the sidelines of LED lighting and security cooperation. A proposal was also put forth to export a special kind of Korean fabric to Qatar.
About 2,000 South Koreans live in Qatar, of whom 800 are women. A majority of them are working on some 15 South Korean construction projects here.
These include the Losail Highway, Dukhan Internet line and the $434m worth project of Qatar National Museum being built by Hyundai Engineering & Construction.
The envoy, however, said that business and energy cooperation may not be enough for long-term ties.
“There is a need to strengthen cultural cooperation,” Chung, who began his diplomatic mission in Qatar last year, said, adding that he aims to increase cultural initiatives during his term.
A series of academic initiatives will be launched next year, which will see an increase in student exchange programmes as well. In 2012, six students from Qatar completed graduation in South Korea.
The mission is also planning to set up a South Korean studies programme at Qatar University (QU).
“We will send a South Korean professor to Qatar University next year and launch a programme accordingly,” Chung said.
South Korea is also offering postgraduate-level scholarships to Qatari students for the first time this year.
As part of the embassy’s cultural events planned this year, South Korean actor Joong-Ki Song came to Qatar last week for the screening of his film A Werewolf Boy. The event was a huge hit with local audiences with over 500 people attending.
To keep the momentum going, a fusion dance troupe will visit Qatar.
“We want to invite more Korean musical and dance groups here,” Chung said.
The envoy said that apart from Korean mobile and electronic products by Samsung and LG, Hyundai and KIA automobile companies were also doing well in the Qatari market.
The trade volume between Qatar and South Korea reached $27bn in 2012.
Qatar’s earliest landmark, the Sheraton Doha, was built by Hyundai.
On the issue of upgrading the hotel, the ambassador said that South Korean companies were waiting for Qatar to make the final call.
“I heard about the renovation plans of Sheraton. That project is on the table,” Chung said, without giving details. The cost of renovation is estimated at between QR500m and QR700m.
Among other projects, the Ministry of Health and Welfare of Korea is negotiating with Hamad Medical Corporation on several initiatives that combine medical treatment with latest Korean technology. There are negotiations on procedures related to kidney transplant, plastic surgery and dentistry.