South Korea secures $30 billion UAE investment and vows to help shore up supply chains at WEF

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Hong Kong/Seoul

South Korea’s leader is capping off a whirlwind week, after securing tens of billions of dollars in investment from the Middle East and vowing to have his country play a more important role in revitalizing international supply chains.

On Monday, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol announced that the United Arab Emirates had pledged a staggering $30 billion in investment in the Asian country.

The news came after the leaders of the two nations held talks in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, in a landmark trip that marked the first-ever state visit to the UAE by a South Korean president, according to a statement from Yoon’s office.

The investment aims to increase cooperation in the fields of nuclear, hydrogen and solar energy, as well as defense, along with an agreement to form a “special strategic partnership” at the highest level, the statement said.

Yoon was joined in the region by a delegation of Korean tycoons, including the billionaire leaders of Samsung, Hyundai Motors

and SK Group. In total, representatives from approximately 100 South Korean companies traveled with the president, according to his office.

South Korea's President Yoon Suk Yeol, right, shaking hands with Qualcomm CEO Christiano Amon, left, in Davos on Jan. 18. Samsung Electronics Chairman Lee Jae-yong and SK Chairman Chey Tae-won are seen in the background.

During the four-day visit, two dozen agreements worth $6.1 billion covering nuclear power, defense and green energy were signed by businesses from the two sides, according to the South Korean government.

Some South Korean firms also agreed to build farms for tomatoes and strawberries in the UAE, a country that relies heavily on imports of agricultural products.

The flurry of deals came just days before Yoon addressed the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where he discussed the importance of repairing global supply chains.

“The most urgent task of our time is to strengthen the supply chain’s resilience based on reciprocal solidarity,” he said in a speech Thursday, noting recent disruptions in the supplies of food, energy, computer chips, vaccines and pharmaceuticals across the globe.

“The pandemic, geopolitical conflicts, the rivalry for technological hegemony, and the weakening multilateral trade system have led to the fragmentation of the global supply chain, causing it to reshape,” Yoon continued, adding that the war in Ukraine had exacerbated the situation.

The president said the issue had led to a “trend of bloc-forming among countries,” with international cooperation “increasingly regarded as a package deal.”

“Building up walls and intensifying protectionism cannot be the right answer,” Yoon added.

Going forward, South Korea “will be a key partner in the global supply chain,” using its expertise in sectors such as semiconductors and steel-making to help stabilize supply chains, he pledged. “We will align and cooperate with mutually trusted countries.”

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