South Korea-Middle East Cooperation Forum concludes in Seoul

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The 10th annual South Korea-Middle East Cooperation Forum came to a conclusion Wednesday in the South Korean capital, Seoul.

Addressing the forum, South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se described how his country’s relationship with the region shifted from one “of choice” to a relationship “of necessity.”

“Over the past few decades we have built and nurtured a relationship of a win-win structure,” Byung-se told the audience.

“For Korea, the Middle East was the reliable partner that supplied energy so critical to its economic development.

“For the Middle East, [South] Korea was the trustworthy and diligent partner that provided the skills and manpower needed for its modernization and infrastructure development.

The South Korean FM spoke in praise of long-term planning in the Middle East in areas such as renewable and nuclear energy, in preparation for a post-oil era.

South Korea was awarded a deal to build four nuclear reactors in the UAE in 2009; while many Korean companies are now regular contractors in many major heavy industry projects across the GCC.

A major part of the post-inauguration discussion tackled the situation in Syria, with many participants and attendees voicing their concern of the international community’s failure to resolve this matter.

Seo Jeong-min, a policy advisor to the South Korean Foreign Ministry and a professor at the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, raised a few eye-brows with his suggestion of a negotiated solution to the Syrian crisis; particularly since he suggested including President Bashar al-Assad in the solution.

The Syrian National Council (SNC) opposes any talks unless they are based on the pre-condition of the removal of Assad.

Jeong-min added that a military response to the Syrian crisis was not possible without forming a coalition; adding that a quick solution wouldn’t be possible without Assad’s participation in peace talks.