By Vice Chairman, Dr.Musa Kim Jong Do(Ex-President of KAMES)
On November 17, Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, the prime minister of Saudi Arabia, called Mr. Everything of the oil kingdom, visited Korea. During his 20 hours of stay, his every move heated up the Internet all day long and sprinkled sweet rain, the second Middle East boom, for us, who were struggling with the economic recession. The MOU (Memorandum of Understanding), which was initially discussed at 8.5 trillion won, reversed the situation with Land, Infrastructure and Transport Minister Won Hee-ryong's visit to Saudi Arabia in early November, leading to the prince's visit from Korea Passing last month, which is reported to be worth 10 trillion won. Saudi Arabia has now officially started 'LOVE KOREA!'.
Therefore, Saudi Vice Culture Minister also visited Korea in last June to create a Saudi-Trend after Korea-Trend. Saudi Arabia plans to invest 35 trillion won in entertainment in the future. On the evening of the signing of the memorandum of understanding, I had mixed feelings while studying Saudi Arabia for about 15 years. I think we need to reflect on ourselves at least once how we view Saudi Arabia on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between South Korea and Saudi Arabia.
The current Saudi government is a new royal family established by the Saud family in 1932, and has a very short history compared to Britain and Japan. Furthermore, as the succession to the throne changed from brother to father in 2017, Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman needs to solidify his position. He is pushing for a revolution in Saudi Arabia through Vision 2030, calling the competition with Iran over the past 40 years a reckless competition. He is an idol of nearly 70% of the total population of Saudi young people because he is sincere and does everything. This is because he sympathizes with young people as a young crown prince, who was educated at King Saud University in Saudi Arabia, and recently lifted regulations on numerous women, including opening movie theaters, allowing women to drive, and watching women's stadiums, and created many jobs. Who's a young man who doesn't like it?
However, even now that we have established diplomatic relations for 60 years, we still don't know much about Saudi Arabia. We didn't even know there was a constitution in Saudi Arabia until just a decade ago. This is because we had a negative image of thinking of Saudi Arabia as a source of crude oil and sometimes living by virtue of winning construction orders. There are only 62 Saudi master's and doctorate papers registered with the Korea Research Foundation. Basic research on the country must be preceded before entering overseas regions. We are still immature and not interested in this field. I was surprised by the stinginess of our companies when I served as the general director of the Korean Association of Middle East Studies(KAMES) twice in the past(2005~2006). Japanese companies invest a lot in overseas regional research and are not stingy.
The Middle East Society of Japan even asked me to write down what I saw and felt for 10 years in Sudan because it will give me research funds. King Abdullah, who died in 2015, emphasized the cooperative relationship with Korea. In response, King Salman and Crown Prince Muhammad are pursuing continuous cooperation with South Korea. Crown Prince Muhammad announced a $500 billion NEOM project on October 24, 2017, and led a large delegation to sign an MOU worth 10 trillion won in October 2019, passed Japan this time, and revisited with a large bundle of gifts. During his second visit to Korea, he should understand the intention of the other party to ask the heads of the eight major companies first, "What do you want in Saudi Arabia?" rather than a unilateral order to "do this for me." Saudi Arabia will do anything with Korea. We must now consider Saudi Arabia as a companion friend, Rafiq, who lives in the same period, not a money-making object, and study Saudi Arabia from scratch for the next 60 years and build a new partnership.