1. Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se delivered a keynote speech at the 10th ROK-Middle East Cooperation Forum on October 23. In his speech, Minister Yun reflected on the evolution of the ROK-Middle East relationship and shared his thoughts on the Park Geun-hye governmentís policy towards the Middle East and the future course of bilateral cooperation for common prosperity.
2. Minister Yun Byung-se explained that the ROK-Middle East relationship, which was once a "relationship of choice," evolved into a "relationship of necessity," as the scope of the partnership expanded from economic interest to a broader comprehensive cooperation. Minister Yun noted that the ROK-Middle East Cooperation Forum has played a crucial role in widening the range and elevating the quality of bilateral relationship over the past ten years.
3. In particular, Minister Yun said that the ROK and the Middle East have built and nurtured a relationship of win-win structure, where for the ROK, the Middle East was the reliable energy supplier and for the Middle East, the ROK was the partner for its modernization and infrastructure development. Minister Yun added that it is also true that as the ROK-Middle East relationship has been focused mainly on economic cooperation, it went through the cycle of ups and downs reflecting the market condition of the given times. Minister Yun stressed that in view of the developments and changes in the Middle East and the ROK over the last decade, it is time for the ROK to "revisit the Middle East" and the Middle East to "rediscover Korea." Minister Yun said that it means the two sides need to try a new approach to upgrade bilateral relations.
4. In addition, with a view to meeting such demands and challenges of our time, Minister Yun characterized the ROKís policy towards the Middle East as the "Comprehensive Partnership towards a new horizon." He emphasized that to build the partnership, the two sides need to pursue mutually "complementing" economic relations, mutually "contributing" political relations, and mutually "communicating" cultural relations.
o As the Middle East is reaching beyond its traditional role as the global supplier of energy and the major player in the global financial market and making preparation for the post-oil era, the ROK, in line with the Middle Eastís policy direction, will work to foster a more future-oriented and multi-faceted partnership with the region, which can be defined as the mutually complementing economic relations.
o In political relations, it is hard to maintain a long-term relationship without firm and mutual trust. As a stake-holder in maintaining the peace and stability in the Middle East, the ROK will work to establish peace in the Middle East based on its experiences in places like Iraq, Lebanon and South Sudan, which can be defined as the mutually contributing political relations.
o The ROK and the Middle East need to work to create cultural relations that will become the catalysts for a more prosperous common future together by taking advantage of similarities between their two cultures and by helping the 140-thousand-strong muslim community in the ROK link their two peoples and cultures.
5. The 10th ROK-Middle East Cooperation Forum was co-hosted by the Jeju Peace Institute(JPI), the Korea-Arab Society (KAS) and the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR) and sponsored by the Foreign Ministry. The Forum, under the theme "Meeting Global Challenges through the ROK-Middle East Partnership," consisted of three sessions on politics and security, economic cooperation and next-generation. It brought together about 300 people from the ROK and the Middle East, including government officials, businessmen, academics and journalists.
o Participants from the Middle East included Mohammed Omar Balfaqeeh, Undersecretary of the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development, and politicians and academics from Egypt, Palestine, Morocco, Bahrain and the UAE. Other participants included Christian Berger, Director for North Africa, Middle East, Arabian Peninsula, Iran and Iraq in the European External Action Service, and William Newcomb of the UN North Korea Sanctions Committee.
o Participants from the ROK side included former Vice Foreign Minister Shin Kak-soo, President and CEO of Arirang TV Sohn Jie-ae, Professor Lee Jung-min of Yonsei University and Professor Seo Jeong-min of Hankuk University of Foreign Studies.
o In particular, to mark its 10th anniversary, the Forum organized a session for the next generation for the first time this year and listened to younger generationsí concerns and opinions regarding the ROK-Middle East cooperation.
6. The Forum, which has been held since 2003, has served as a crucial channel for key figures from various sectors of both sides, including government, business, academia and the media, to discuss ways to enhance mutual understanding and cooperation.
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