South Korean President Park Geun-hye said on Monday her country must use the "second Middle East boom" as a new engine for economic growth, as she plans to visit Kuwait and three other Gulf States from March 1, Seoul's official public broadcaster KBS reported.
"South Korea and the Middle East should collaborate in mutually beneficial industries such as construction, energy, defense and health care," Park was quoted as saying at a meeting with senior presidential secretaries.
Highlighting that this year marks South Korea's 50th anniversary of winning overseas construction projects, she further added South Korea should bolster its three-year economic plan through economic diplomacy.
South Korea will sign a memorandum of understanding with Saudi Arabia during her trip so that it can pass on Korea's experience in setting up the so-called "creative economy innovation centers" which support startups, Park told the secretaries.
During the nine-day trip, she will visit Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar to meet the leaders of the four Gulf countries. It will be Park's first visit abroad this year.
According to Yonhap News Agency, the presidential office said in a statement that on her first leg of the four-nation trip, Park will hold a summit meeting with His Highness the Amir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah to discuss ways to increase bilateral cooperation in the sectors of energy, construction, railroad, health and communication technology. The leaders also plans to delve into the security situation on the Korean Peninsula as well as ways to secure peace and security in the Middle East region, the official statement noted. Park will then fly to Saudi Arabia on March 3 for a two-day visit that will include a meeting with the newly-crowned King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. Park and the king plan to go into how bilateral collaboration can be expanded in the fields of energy, construction and communication technology as well as on diplomatic and safety issues, the presidential office said. Park's itinerary in Saudi Arabia will also include meetings with key figures and attend cultural events there.
On March 4, Park is scheduled to move to the UAE to meet with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, before landing on the final leg of the visit, Qatar, on March 6.
Park's planned meeting with Qatar's Amir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani was arranged in return for the Qatari leader's visit to South Korea last November. During the Qatar visit, Park plans to attend a set of cultural and economic events to mark the 40th anniversary of bilateral ties and express her plans to further expand bilateral relations before returning home on March 9, the presidential office added.