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According to Yonhap News,
(SEOUL=Yonhap News) South Korean President Park Geun-hye returned home Monday after a four-nation Middle East swing meant to further expand economic ties beyond oil and construction.
The trip to four Gulf States -- Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar -- came as oil-rich Mideast countries are pushing to diversify their economic portfolios ahead of the inevitable advent of a post-oil era.
South Korea believes that such attempts could present new business opportunities for its companies, especially in such fields as health care and information and communications technology.
South Korea views the potential business opportunities as the "second Middle East boom" following the first one in the 1970s when many Korean workers sent home their hard-earned cash from sweating at construction sites in the region.
The Middle Eastern countries "are offering us another chance with the second Middle East boom," Park said Sunday in a meeting with more than 100 South Korean businessmen who accompanied Park on her trip.
In Doha, Park and Qatar's emir agreed to further cooperate in nuclear reactors and health care while cementing ties in such traditional sectors as construction, Park's office said.
Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani told Park that he is ready to further develop cooperative relations with South Korea in a wide-range of issues, noting South Korea is a model of Qatar's economic growth.
Park also sought Al Thani's interest to ensure that South Korean companies can participate in industrial and infrastructure projects in the oil-rich Gulf state, saying that South Korea, which co-hosted the 2002 World Cup with Japan, can be a good partner for Qatar in building infrastructure.
Qatar plans to spend about US$100 billion to expand its infrastructure such as roads and stadiums to prepare for the 2022 World Cup. South Korea hopes that its companies can secure some of the projects.
Park and Al Thani also observed the signing of a memorandum of understanding calling for cooperation on training nuclear experts and on building a nuclear reactor for medical and other research purposes.
South Korea said the MOU could help its companies win projects in case Qatar decides to build nuclear reactors in the future.
The move came just days after Park and Saudi Arabia's new monarch observed the signing of an MOU calling for a joint partnership on a nuclear reactor developed by South Korea for export to water-scarce countries, including the Middle East.
South Korea said the MOU could help its companies win a US$2 billion project to build two mid-size commercial reactors in Saudi Arabia if the desert kingdom decides to build the reactors after a preliminary review set to end by 2018.
In Kuwait, Park held talks with Kuwait's emir, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, and sought his interest and assistance to ensure that South Korean companies can participate in industrial and infrastructure projects in the oil-rich country.
In Abu Dhabi, Park was upbeat over an MOU on cooperation on halal food products as it could give Seoul access to the huge global halal market, which is expected to grow to $1.62 trillion by 2018.
Halal is an Arabic word meaning "lawful" or "permitted." Halal food is prepared according to religious rules for Muslims, but 80 percent of the food comes from non-Muslim countries and companies, according to South Korea.
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Source: Yonhap News (March 09, 2015)