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Qatar and South Korea sign MoUs as president wraps up first state visit to Doha

Energy has been among the key pillars of Qatar and South Korea’s diplomatic ties of almost 50 years.

Qatar and South Korea signed a number of agreements during an official state visit by President Yoon Suk Yeol on Wednesday, Qatar News Agency reported.

The MoUs encompassed cooperation in the field of national geospatial information, cooperation in the fields of smart construction, building technology, infrastructure and building development and the field of smart agriculture.

They were signed in the presence of Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and President Yoon at the Amiri Diwan.

“They also witnessed the signing of a memorandum of understanding for cooperation in the field of small and medium-sized enterprises and startups and a memorandum of understanding on establishing a framework for promoting trade and investment,” QNA reported.

President Yoon arrived to Qatar on Tuesday following a stopover in Saudi Arabia. Yoon is the first South Korean leader to pay a state visit to both countries, Yonhap reported last week.

Earlier on Wednesday, the two leaders met for official talks at the Amiri Diwan.

Sheikh Tamim “stressed his keenness to strengthen the bilateral relations between the two countries, especially with the approaching of the 50th anniversary of establishing the diplomatic relation between both countries, which the two countries will celebrate in 2024, wishing the Qatari-Korean relations further development and growth,” QNA reported.

Similar sentiments were shared by President Yoon who sought steps to develop cooperation relations between the two countries and an expansion into multiple fields.

The two leaders discussed bilateral relations between the two countries and ways of supporting and developing them in all fields, especially in energy, investment, and culture domains, in addition to discussing the most prominent regional and international developments of common interest.

Ahead of his departure for Doha, President Yoon told QNA that his visit holds “much significance.”

“I hope this visit will serve as an invaluable opportunity to elevate our bilateral relations to a new level,” he said at the time.

The visit comes amid the ongoing Israeli aggression on Gaza that has only escalated since 7 October with no ceasefire in sight. Since the beginning of the war, the Israeli occupation forces (IOF) have killed at least 5,791 Palestinians, including at least 2,055 children.

“Given that the conflict between Israel and Hamas, which is walking on thin ice, is directly connected to peace in the Middle East and the regional order, we expect there to be discussions on the security situation during the summits with Saudi Arabia and Qatar,” Principal Deputy National Security Adviser Kim Tae-hyo, told the press last week.

Despite this, official meeting statements have not made mention of such discussions.

Energy ties

Energy has been among the key pillars of Qatar and South Korea’s diplomatic ties of almost 50 years. Both Qatar and Saudi Arabia account for 38% of South Korea’s crude oil imports and 21% for its gas imports, per figures shared by Yonhap.

“The Korean government intends to expand the scope of our cooperation, moving beyond the fields of energy and construction to encompass investment, the defense industry, agriculture, culture and people-to-people exchanges,” Yoon told QNA.

South Korea is among the Asian countries that hold long-term fixed contracts for liquified natural gas (LNG) with Qatar. A number of South Korean companies also represent key partners in Qatar’s North Field Expansion project, the biggest of its kind in the LNG industry.

Last month, QatarEnergy and Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) inked a QAR 14.2 billion deal for the construction of 17 LNG ships. 

The deal marked the beginning of the second phase of the Qatari state-owned company’s LNG ship acquisition programme, the largest of its kind in the industry’s history. 

The project is designed to massively ramp up Qatar’s LNG production.

QatarEnergy signed contracts for 60 other LNG ships during the first phase of its historic programme, which also aims at supporting the growing gas production capacity for the multi-billion dollar North Field expansion and the Golden Pass projects.

With the new agreement, QatarEnergy secured a total of 77 LNG ships.

Meanwhile in June, QatarEnergy witnessed the steel cutting of its first new generation LNG vessel in South Korea, an event that marked a new milestone in the fleet expansion project.

The multi-billion dollar North Field Expansion project is split into two parts, the North Field East (NFE) and the North Field South (NFS).

NFE is set to ramp up Qatar’s LNG production from 77 to 110 mtpa (million tonnes per annum) by 2025, as the NFS will increase the production capacity from 110 to 126 mtpa by 2026. 

Overall, the project is set to boost Qatar’s LNG production by more than 63% while adding 48 mtpa to the global production.

“During my state visit, I will be accompanied by a delegation of leaders from around 60 Korean businesses which specialise in various emerging industries such as digital technology, biohealth, smart farming and cultural content,” Yoon said.