Reem Island to house hundreds of Korean expats in new deal

View across Abu Dhabi skyline towards Reem Island

Abu Dhabi’s Reem Investment plans to build a development to house thousands of South Korean expatriates in the UAE capital, as economic ties between the two countries strengthen.

The investment firm inked a deal with Korean non-profit organisation WNGKEPA to oversee the construction of a Korean cultural centre and a residential village on the city’s Reem Island.

Paul Fernandez, director of corporate affairs at Reem Investments, said the deal aimed to pre-empt an influx of hundreds of Korean workers to the UAE by 2014.

“The UAE and Korea enjoy good relations; in fact the UAE is Korea’s largest export destination in the Middle East,” he told Arabian Business. “In the last two years Korean companies have won contracts worth $90bn… there are 15,000 Koreans expected in the Middle East by 2014.”

The oil-rich UAE awarded a $20bn contract to a consortium of Korean companies in 2009, to build the Gulf country’s first nuclear power plant.

Trade between the UAE and Korea, the world’s fifth-largest crude importer, reached $12.2bn in March, up 31 percent from the same period the previous year, according to government data.

The Middle East accounted for more than half of the $59.1bn foreign deals landed by Korean construction firms in 2011, data from the International Contractors Association of Korea showed.

The deal saw Reem sign a 30-year land lease agreement with WNGKEPA to construct a 240,000 sq ft cultural centre to serve as a community point for Korean expatriates.

Construction is slated to begin in mid-2012, to be completed by late 2013. Korean architectural firm Gansam Architects has been appointed to design the centre.

The project’s second phase will include a residential development, and key amenities such as healthcare facilities and schools, said Fernandez.

South Korea’s Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik is visiting the UAE this week as the country moves to secure additional oil supplies from Gulf states amid US-led sanctions on Iran.

The UAE and Oman accounted for 10 and 2 percent of South Korea's 846 million barrels of crude oil imports respectively between January and November of this year, according to state-run Korea National Oil Corp data.

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