Posted : 2014-03-09 19:01
Updated : 2014-03-09 19:01

Kuwaiti ambassador calls Korean firms credible partners

Kuwaiti Ambassador to Korea Jasem Albudaiwi poses for a photo at his office in Seoul,
Tuesday. / Korea Times
By Kang Hyun-kyung

Kuwaiti Ambassador to Korea Jasem Albudaiwi spoke highly of Korean companies operating in his country for their work ethic, amid the Middle East construction boom.

"We are honored to have South Korean companies in our country and proud of what they have done for us over the past decades," the envoy said in an interview with The Korea Times at his office in Seoul, Tuesday.

"Since the 1970s, you have brought us great buildings, honest work, precise timing to complete construction on deadline and great outcomes. South Korean companies in Kuwait have proven themselves as credible actors," he added.

The Kuwaiti ambassador raised Korean companies' strong reputation on his own during the interview, calling them "wonderful partners."

Albudaiwi noted that the trust Korean businesses have built over the past four decades in Kuwait, since the first Middle East construction boom in the 1970s, is the key driving force for their success in winning bids to construct bridges, buildings and a port there.

"Korean companies are now entrusted with two major projects which will change the shape of Kuwait," the Kuwaiti ambassador said.

Albudaiwi was referring to the $1.2 billion Mubarak Al Kabir Port project and the $2.6 billion causeway project, named after the late Kuwaiti emir Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad al-Sabah, to connect Kuwait City and the northern area of Subbiya.

The Kuwaiti ambassador stressed that the Mubarak port will be the biggest port in the Gulf region.

When completed, the port will have an initial annual cargo-handling capacity of 1.8 million containers.

In the beginning, the port project met a grave challenge as neighboring country Iraq raised concerns about it.

Iraq, which is also building a port in Umm Qasr close to the Mubarak port, expressed worries that the close proximity of the two ports may strangle Iraqi shipping lanes.

Construction boom

In July 2011, the Shiite militant group Kataeb Hezbollah warned the Korean consortium led by Hyundai to halt the port project.

In a statement the group posted on its website, it said, "We are warning the companies working on the Kuwaiti port against continuing the project."

"The Iraqi people will not forget what the government of Kuwait is doing by building a port to strangle Iraq economically."

Months later, the dispute was reportedly resolved as Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said that an experts' review found the Mubarak port "won't affect our navigation" and that it had "removed the fears of the port."

The first phase of the Mubarak port project is expected to be completed in the second quarter of this year.

Meanwhile, Ambassador Albudaiwi said the Jaber causeway project will significantly cut the time it takes to drive between the two areas.

His remarks were intended to imply that Korean businesses have played a key part to help Kuwait move forward in its ambition to rise as a regional trans-shipment hub in the future.

Albudaiwi hinted that the strong reputation of Korean companies has not come overnight as the Kuwaiti government and people have seen the way Korean firms work for the past four decades since the 1970s.

The Kuwaiti ambassador made the remarks amid sweeping optimism in the private sector about the so-called second Middle East construction boom.

In recent years, several Korean companies have won billions of dollars in bids to construct buildings, infrastructure and roads in the Middle East.

Samsung has built a 300-story skyscraper in Dubai, and Hyundai, SK, Daelim and Doosan are constructing a port, roads and other facilities in Kuwait.

Industry experts say that the second construction boom in the Middle East has been fueled by oil price hikes in recent years.

The boom, consequently, has benefitted Korean firms, they said.

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