By Arab News
By Rashid Hassan
The Minister of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources Khalid Al-Falih’s three-day visit to South Korea, which began in Seoul on Thursday, has provided a fresh impetus to bilateral relations.
Al-Falih met South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Minister of Trade, Industry and Energy Paik Un-gyu on Friday to expand bilateral cooperation in energy and other key sectors, Juho Song, commercial counselor at the Korean Embassy in Riyadh, told Arab News.
During the reception, the Korean president hailed the strong bilateral relationship between Saudi Arabia and Korea, which began in 1962. He said that cooperation was not limited to oil and conventional energy, but included industrial fields such as electric cars and machinery.
Song said that the South Korean president had called for joint efforts to enhance economic cooperation between the two countries, stressing the need to expand bilateral cooperation including in the health and cultural sectors.
Moon sought to promote South Korean nuclear energy technology, noting that his country had safely built and operated nuclear power plants for more than four decades, the presidential office in Seoul said.
Al-Falih said that the Kingdom aimed to diversify energy sources under Vision 2030, and to jointly develop new small or medium-sized reactors. It was also willing to invest in the joint development of electric and other future-oriented vehicles with South Korea.
The first meeting was in Seoul last October, when the countries launched a ministerial-level Saudi-Korea Vision 2030 committee to bolster cooperation, focus on supporting business ventures and enhance networking with sustainable support for economic reforms.
The Vision 2030 committee is comprised of five sub-groups headed by senior government representatives from both sides for cooperation in key sectors including energy and manufacturing, smart infrastructure and digitization, capacity-building, health care and life sciences, SME’s and investment.
Saudi Arabia and Korea are working closely on nuclear safety and security and the Kingdom has sent 41 nuclear experts to South Korea for training and learning to design, construct and develop nuclear plants based on System-integrated Modular Advanced Reactor (SMART) technology.
The SMART project aims to design and develop compact nuclear reactors so that the Kingdom can diversify energy sources in line with Vision 2030.
King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy and the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute signed a SMART pre-project engineering agreement in September 2015 that will remain in effect until November 2018.
Saudi Arabia has received requests for information from five countries — South Korea, China, the US, France and Russia — to build two nuclear reactors.
If South Korea wins the bid, it would be their second nuclear exports deal in the Middle East. In 2009, a consortium led by state-run utility Korea Electric Power Corp. tapped its first nuclear exports deal, a $20 billion contract with the UAE.