8th Korea-Middle East Cooperation Forum
8th Korea-Middle East Cooperation Forum
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'Strengthening the Korea-GCC relationship in a time of change'

On Oct. 14, the Jeju Peace Institute and the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research (UAE) co-hosted the 8th annual Korea-Middle East Cooperation Forum, sponsored by Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

This forum specifically focused on Korea's relationship with the Gulf Cooperation Council [GCC], also known as the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, which includes Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates [UAE], Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and Bahrain. A representative from Egypt also participated in the forum.

His Royal Highness, Prince Turki alFaisal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia, chairman of the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, gave a keynote speech to an audience of dignitaries.

Prince Turki alFaisal spoke about the global concerns raised by the recent “Arab Spring” revolutions in a series of Middle Eastern countries, and the stability and standing of Saudi Arabia in that context. He further identified this conference as “the right means to foster and deepen understanding” between Korea and the Gulf region.

A keynote speech was also given by Yu Myung-Hwan, former Foreign Minister of Korea, who provided a variety of suggestions for strengthening the ties and cooperative efforts between Korea and the GCC member states, focusing in particular on economic and cultural interchanges.

In a session on “Implications of Regional Geopolitical Challenges for Korea - GCC Relations,” moderated by Ambassador Yim Sung-joon, presentations were given by Dr. Lee Shin-wha of Korea University's Global Leadership Development Center, Ambassador Abdulazeez Abdullateef Al-Sharikh, director general of the Kuwaiti Diplomatic Institute, and Dr. CHO Namhoon, senior policy advisor to Korea's Minister of Defense.

Dr. Seo Jeong-min, policy advisor to Korea's Foreign Minister, and Dr. Jang Ji-Hyang, director of the Middle Eastern and North African Program at Korea's Asan Institute for Policy Studies, were discussants.

General themes of this session included the changing nature of global security and geopolitical challenges in the East Asian region, North Korea's development of weapons of mass destruction with Iran's contribution and China's ambiguous position, and diplomatic relations between Korea and Kuwait reflecting possible ways to enhance Korea-GCC cooperative efforts.

Questions were raised as to the controversial relationships of both Libya and Syria with North Korea, as well as possible outcomes should North Korea's government suddenly collapse. The distinction between Iran's development of nuclear energy and North Korea's nuclear weaponry was also raised. Further concerns were voiced regarding the “Arab Spring” phenomenon, general instability in the Mideast region, and how this might affect the Korea-GCC relationship.

“Asia's Rise and its Implications for Korea – GCC Economic Cooperation” was the topic of another session. Moderated by Dr. Park Chin-Keun, chairperson of Korea's National Research Council for Economics, Humanities, and Social Sciences, the speakers included Dr. Chae Wook, president of Korea Institute for International Economic Policy; Abdulla Ahmed Al Saleh, undersecretary of UAE Ministry of Foreign Trade; and, Dr. Hyun Oh-Seok, president of Korea Development Institute.

Dr. Mohamed Sultan Ahmed Abou-Ali, professor at Zagazig University and former Minister of Economics in Egypt, and Mr. Chung Kyeh-Ryong, director general of the Overseas Economic Research Institute in the Export-Import Bank of Korea, were discussants.

In this session, the topic of Asian economic status and forecast, with a particular focus on Korea, was presented and possibilities for increased trade and other economic cooperation between the regions were explored. Korea's model of economic development and the UAE's trade policies were detailed.

The need for a clear vision for the future, flexibility of economic planning, the importance of incentives, and the consideration of distinct values and cultures were also discussed.

The final session focused on “Strengthening Cultural and Educational Exchange Between GCC and Korea.” Moderated by Sohn Jie-Ae, president and CEO of Arirang TV & Radio, the session's presenters were Yoon Keum-jin, director of the culture and art department of Korea Foundation, Saad Bin Tiflah Alajmi, Kuwait's former Minister of Information and Culture, and Dr. Hah Byoung Joo, professor at Pusan University of Foreign Studies.

There were multiple discussants of this session: Shin Nakyun, National Assembly member and former Minister of Culture and Tourism; Dr. Said bin Ali Suleiman Al-Yahyaee, deputy vice chancellor of Academic Affairs and Community Services at Sultan Qaboos University in Oman; Park Moo-jong, president and publisher of The Korea Times; Dr. Turki Fahad Al-Ayyar, head of the Saudi Cultural Mission; and, Dr. Lee Won-Sam, professor of Sun Moon University in Korea as well as visiting professor of Al-Imam Muhammad bin Saud Islamic University in Saudi Arabia.

This session focused on both cultural and educational initiatives as cooperative efforts between Korea and the GCC region. Historical, current and future endeavors were included.

While the number of cultural exchange programs between Korea and the Middle East have been relatively small thus far, there has been a sharp increase since 2004, according to statistics provided by the Korea Foundation.

Projections for future cultural exchange between the regions included the development of customized programs, an active promotion and organization of projects with partner institutions, and an initiative in which the foundation serves as a bridge between relevant Korean organizations and their Mideast counterparts.

Assemblywoman Shin provided several recommendations, including: (1) the development of Korean experts on the Middle East, currently lacking even in the National Assembly; (2) the promotion of bilateral exchanges between the people of both regions, not as a one-time event but ongoing for greater effectiveness; (3) education of students in each region regarding an accurate history and portrayal of the other.

President Han Tae-kyu of the Jeju Peace Institute, in his closing remarks, sounded a note of great hope for continued and increased cooperation between the regions in the form of economic and cultural exchange for greater understanding and mutual benefit.

Dr. Hilty is a cultural health psychologist.

<Anne Hilty  eastwest.psyche@gmail.comJeju Weekly All rights reserved>

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