1. The 19th meeting of the Republic of Korea (ROK)-Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) Joint Committee took place in Riyadh on December 18, with Minister of Foreign Affairs Kang, Kyung-wha and Saudi Minister of Economy and Planning Mohammed Al-Tuwaijri as head delegates of the two countries.
° Saudi Arabia is the ROK’s top economic partner in the Middle East. The ROK-KSA Joint Committee, convened on a regular basis since 1975, is the ROK’s ministerial consultative mechanism with the longest history among its joint committees with Middle Eastern countries.
2. During Joint Committee meeting held in two years, the two sides reviewed the progress in the implementation of actions agreed upon by the leaders of the two countries during the official visit to the ROK by His Royal Highness Crown Prince Mohammed in June 2019. They also explored new ways to promote cooperation in such areas as people-to-people exchanges, healthcare and medicine, education, and the e-government system.
° The two sides reviewed the outcome of cooperation in 15 areas, including foreign affairs, national defense, healthcare and aerospace, and discussed ways to expand substantive cooperation in the future.
° The two sides, sharing the view on the need to consider visa exemption in order to further boost people-to-people exchanges, agreed to resume consultations on the proposed agreement on visa exemption for holders of diplomatic and official passports as the first step.
° The ROK side asked for the resolution of challenges facing Korean enterprises, such as double taxation and surtax returns. The Saudi side responded that it will make efforts to resolve those issues.
° The two sides also agreed to work together in promoting Korean enterprises’ participation and investment in large-scale infrastructure projects that the Saudi side is pursuing as part of its Vision 2030 policy, including the Red Sea, Neom and Qiddiya projects.
° In addition, the two sides agreed to establish an E-Government Cooperation Center in Saudi Arabia by the first half of 2020 in a follow-up on the memorandum of understanding (MOU) in the field of e-government cooperation concluded during the visit to the ROK by His Royal Highness Crown Prince Mohammed.
° The two sides also reviewed the progress in new cooperation projects and discussed ways for future cooperation: Among the projects are the introduction of the ROK’s health insurance review and assessment system as well as its hospital information system in Saudi Arabia; the streamlining of Saudi Arabia’s licensing and approving procedures for Korean pharmaceuticals; the establishment of King Sejong Institutes in prestigious universities in Saudi Arabia; and the initiation of research and development (R&D) in satellite development.
3. On the heels of the Joint Committee meeting, the head delegates of the two countries signed the Agreed Minutes. The two sides also concluded an MOU between the Korea Institute of Ceramic Engineering and Technology (KICET) and the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) for collaboration on the research on the energy efficiency materials, and an MOU between the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) and KAUST for research cooperation on collection, utilization and storage of carbon dioxide.
4. After the Joint Committee meeting, Minister Kang met with Minister of Energy Abdulaziz bin Salman Al Saud on the afternoon of December 18 and discussed ways to step up energy cooperation with Saudi Arabia, the largest crude oil supplier.
° Minister Kang commended the efforts of Saudi Arabia to achieve stability in international oil prices as a reliable crude oil supplier and asked for expanded Saudi investment in the ROK’s energy sector. The two Ministers agreed to make joint efforts to strengthen cooperation in the field of energy security, including petroleum, petro-chemicals, and SMART nuclear power plants.
5. Amid a series of high-level exchanges, including the visit to the ROK by the Saudi Crown Prince in June, the visits to Saudi Arabia by the ROK Minister of National Defense in November and the ROK Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transport in December, and the visit to the ROK by Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir in December, the Joint Committee meeting is seen to have served as a good opportunity to review the overall progress in bilateral cooperation in 2019 and to provide a strategic direction for cooperation for 2020 and on.