SEOUL, Feb. 2 (Korea Bizwire) – South Korea will step up efforts to improve its ties with the Middle East as “true partners,” with the two sides confronted with “different but similar” security crises, a top Seoul diplomat said Tuesday.
While struggling to cope with troubles from its nuclear-armed neighbor, South Korea is endeavoring to make contributions to the handling of thorny issues in another part of the globe.
Vice Foreign Minister Lim Sung-nam stressed that even if the cause and background of the problems in Korea and the Middle East are different, solutions may not differ widely.
“In the case of the Korean Peninsula, the key to securing peace and prosperity lies in whether the international community will be able to a induce a change in the strategic calculation on the part of Pyongyang’s leadership regarding its nuclear and missile programs,” he said at the opening of an annual forum here with the European Union on the Middle East. “Likewise, in the Middle East, I believe that the crucial element is whether key stakeholders will be able to redefine their strategic interests from a win-win prospective.”
He said he disagrees with the concept of so-called Middle East exceptionalism not because he denies the unique nature of the Middle East but because he believes in the universal value of placing the priority on the people.
“In this regard, it’s my heartfelt hope that the Islamic values of tolerance and peaceful coexistence will be fully realized. This will be invaluable in addressing the difficulties in the region,” he said.
Lim added South Korea will “indeed continue to strengthen its ‘politically involved, economically innovative and culturally interactive’ partnership with the Middle East,” he emphasized.
South Korea’s rapid economic growth and political development, based on tireless efforts to cultivate human resources through education, may serve as a “valuable reference” for the Middle East today, he noted.
“In this context, I believe and hope that Korea and the Middle East, as true partners, will be able to forge even stronger ties through a two-day learning process,” he said.’
Speaking after Lim, Ambassador Gerhard Sabathil, head of the Delegation of the European Union to the Republic of Korea, said the two sides will intensify joint efforts to address the Middle East issues as “very like-minded strategic partners,” which he said means they can have open and frank talks about everything.
The envoy stressed that the Middle East problem is not just a regional issue as it carries potential threats in other areas as shown in recent migration flows.
“No one is immune,” he emphasized, addressing the 2nd International Conference on Middle Eastern and North African Affairs between South Korea and the EU.
The two sides launched the forum last year in a bid to exchange what they say are “constructive and forward-looking views” on the Middle East.
Other participants in the two-day session include former Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan and Yemeni Foreign Minister Abdulmalek Al-Mikhlafi.