This year’s 85th anniversary of the National Day of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia comes at a time when the development renaissance in the Kingdom is continuing apace. Indeed, the foundations of the comprehensive revival of the Kingdom were laid by the Founder His Majesty King Abdul-Aziz Bin Abdul Rahman Al Saud and throughout his dutiful sons, up to the current era of His Majesty King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. Based on the intellectual and institutional fundamentals laid by the late great Founder King Abdulaziz, and guided by His Majesty’s ideas and practices in development planning and economic management, his sons and successors have continued the grand efforts in all fields. Such ceaseless endeavor has resulted in remarkable achievements and successes in every field. There have been continued rise of living standards, improvement in quality of life, comprehensive construction and industrial revival, and advanced economic and social services throughout the country. Undoubtedly, these achievements are clear reflection of the effectiveness of the developmental approach that were adopted by the Kingdom; an approach that combines scientific planning, targeted rationalization, and continued support for private sector within the framework of economic freedom and individual initiative. Over successive decades, structural, socioeconomic advances have been achieved, at both the macro and sectoral levels. The Saudi economy has gained enormous strength, increasing its ability to adapt to changes and developments and withstand global economic fluctuations.
More than fifty years have passed since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Republic of Korea in 1962. During the past five decades, the Saudi-Korea relations have witnessed a qualitative leap, and amazing developments that have extended to all aspects of political, economic, cultural, education, military and health fields. Such developments are responsive to policies and principles stipulated in mutual agreements, talks, and exchange visits by officials of both countries. These efforts made the bilateral ties-characterized by sincerity, honesty and commitment-one of the most important international relations within the half-century.
Following the establishment of Saudi-Korea diplomatic relations in 1962, the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia opened in 1974 in Seoul, as the first Arab Embassy in the Republic of Korea. In the early stages of the bilateral ties, both countries made a number of significant achievements, with the participation of Korean experts and manpower in Saudi Arabia to modernize its infrastructure, mainly, with implementation of projects of roads, public buildings, water desalination, power generation, information technology and many other various industrial projects. This was, indeed, quite enough to make Korea more qualified- thanks to its companies, experts, and well trained labor-and thereby to win a significant share of large-scale projects carried out in the Kingdom. It also paved the way to sign more important deals between the two countries to carry out projects, based on the needs of the Kingdom for its development.
It is also significant to note the Saudi-Korea economic and trade relations where the two countries have witnessed amazing developments. In 2014, the bilateral trade volume reached almost 45 billion USD, and 20 billion USD as of August 2015. Currently, Saudi Arabia is the major trading partner to the Republic of Korea, being Korea’s fourth largest importer, while Korea is Saudi’s fifth largest exporter.
A number of agreements and committees - mainly, Saudi-Korea Joint Committee- assures the two countries to build a genuine partnership, so that the bilateral cooperation would be comprehensive and responsive to the interest of the peoples of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Republic of Korea.
Another notable development was seen in October 2014 when the first Economic Business Forum between the two friendly countries was held with the participation of senior government officials and business sectors from both sides. The Forum surely added a new dimension in the economic and trade relations between Saudi Arabia and the Republic of Korea.
The visit of Her Excellency Madam President Park Geun-Hye to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in March 2015 is undeniably one of the latest vital developments between the two countries. The Saudi-Korea bilateral summit talks with the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz was held on a number of topics of common interests. Among these issues was cooperation in fields of diplomacy, security, nuclear energy, construction, medical services, information and communication technology. The talks also included how to increase the participation of Korean companies in transforming the Saudi economy to non-oil economy. Both sides have signed 14 memorandums of understanding in the economic field with a total value of 5.4 billion USD. One of these projects was to establish the e-government worth of 200 million USD, and to build a pharmaceutical industrial park worth of 200 million USD. Riyadh and Seoul also signed another memorandum of understanding to build and operate two nuclear reactors of "SMART" type by Korean companies worth of 2 billion USD, where, later on, both country would manufacture and operate such reactors in a third country. The two sides agreed also to dispatch professors and students of KAIST to Saudi Arabia to assist in the opening of the department of Nuclear Engineering, and to establish a nuclear power, and renewable resources training center in Saudi Arabia.
Those who review both countries’ economies, potentials, and status in the global economic system will not find themselves surprised at the solid Saudi-Korean partnership for the last 50 years, and their capabilities to create a productive environment, and how they became to be the members of the G20, the group of economically richest countries in the world. The friendship between the two countries, similarities in policies and chances of available integration enabled both governments to draw a road map of their bilateral relations with specifications appropriate for both sides.
Lastly, I would like to note with significance that such achievements in the bilateral relations would not have been accomplished without the kind and merciful assistance of Allah and the support and guidance from both rational leaderships that pay special attention to sustain and support the relationship between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Republic of Korea. Thanks to Allah, the pace of the relations between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Republic of Korea is moving smoothly as planned, heading towards the steady and impeccable progress and growth in serenity and harmony.