The Asia Society Policy Institute’s brief, ‘South Korea’s evolving ties with the Middle East’, provides a detailed analysis of Korea’s strengthening relations with the 18 countries of the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region.
Energy is the cornerstone of Korea-MENA relations. Korea imports 73.5% of its crude oil and 40% of its liquified natural gas from MENA. The energy relationship has also expanded to include Korea’s involvement in downstream projects, such as refining of oil and gas. By 2012, 60% of Korea’s overseas engineering, procurement and construction contracts were with Gulf Cooperation Council countries for energy and transport infrastructure.
Relations have also diversified to include defence, security and healthcare cooperation. For example, Korea has only deployed its overseas military contingent for security cooperation purposes to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), an arrangement which began in 2011. More recently, Korea has provided the UAE with COVID-19 tests kits and President Moon has discussed international cooperation on COVID-19 with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia. This diversification suggests that all parties are pursuing stronger relations.
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