*South Korean companies eyeing next phase of Hamad Port development

His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani arrived on Sunday in Seoul on a two-day official visit to South Korea, the Qatar News Agency reported.

The Amir was welcomed upon arrival at Seoul Air Base by South Korea's Minister of Oceans and Fisheries Kim Young-choon, Qatar's ambassador to South Korea Mohamed Abdullah al-Duhaimi and the South Korean ambassador to Qatar Kim Chang-mo.

Heads of Arab diplomatic missions accredited to South Korea and members of the Qatari embassy in Seoul were also present. His Highness the Amir is accompanied by an official delegation, QNA added.

Earlier, in a statement to Gulf Times, ambassador Chang-mo said that South Korean companies, which played a significant role in the completion of Hamad Port, are looking to participate in the next development phase of Qatar’s 25.8sq km main seaport.

He was commenting specifically on future co-operation between South Korea and Qatar, in the wake of the Amir's three-nation Asian tour that also includes Japan and China.

“South Korean companies contributed a lot to the early inauguration of the Hamad Port by successfully completing their role in the port development project. We expect Korean companies will be able to participate in the third phase of Hamad Port’s development, which is now being planned, utilising their accumulated expertise and experience,” Chang-mo told Gulf Times.

The envoy further said South Korean commercial vessels have been operating between Busan in South Korea and Hamad Port since January last year.

“This greatly contributes to facilitating sea transportation in this region, especially after the economic blockade. We anticipate strengthened co-operation in the area of sea transportation, too,” Chang-mo said.

Similarly, the ambassador said Qatar and South Korea have had a series of co-operation activities in the fields of public health and the medical industry, which could be further expanded.

“Since 2016, our two countries have co-hosted a bilateral medical forum for the purpose of sharing medical information and related experiences. We have the potential to further expand our co-operation in the areas of medical treatment, patient care, healthcare, and insurance programme, among others."

The ‘2019 Korea-Qatar Health Symposium’ was opened in Doha on Saturday, under the patronage of HE the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for Defence Affairs Dr Khalid bin Mohamed al-Attiyah.

"To make the symposium a great success, the two governments, in close consultations, have thoroughly prepared the event,” the ambassador said.

“South Korea’s Minister of Health and Welfare Park Neunghoo led over 30 members of the delegation consisting of doctors and staff, demonstrating South Korea’s keen interest in the symposium. The symposium aims to focus on creating strong ties between experts and a platform for the exchange of knowledge and medical skills.”

Asked about the expectations and the impact of the Amir’s visit to South Korea, Chang-mo said he believes this “is of significant importance” in conjunction with the recent series of high-level exchanges between the two countries, including Qatar’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs HE Sheikh Mohamed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani's visit to Korea in August last year and South Korea’s Land, Infrastructure and Transport Minister’s visit to Qatar in October.

“We also see this January, Korea’s Trade Minister and Health Minister’s visit to Doha. Korean political and economic circles welcome the frequent exchanges of visits at all levels, which will further strengthen the bilateral relations between the two countries,” the ambassador said.

On Qatar-South Korea bilateral trade, Chang-mo said the total trade volume stood at $11.7bn, registering a 12% in 2017, with South Korea exports to Qatar totalling $436mn and Qatar’s exports reaching $11.2bn.

“The official figure in 2018 is not yet available, but the trade volume between our two countries in the first half of 2018 exceeded that of the previous year, recording South Korea as number one trading partner of Qatar.

“The major items of South Korea’s export to Qatar include electricity transformers, construction equipment, and auto vehicles, while Qatar’s main items of export to Korea are natural gas, petroleum and naphtha,” Chang-mo said.