Report: South Korean official’s UAE visit tied to military deal

A South Korean official’s visit to the United Arab Emirates in December could be connected to the signing of past deals related to the operation of nuclear power plants and military aid, according to a local press report.

Presidential Blue House Chief of Staff Im Jong-seok (L) meets with Mohammed Bin Zayed Nahyan, crown prince of the UAE, on Dec. 10. Photo courtesy of Republic of Korea Blue House/Yonhap
Presidential Blue House Chief of Staff Im Jong-seok (L) meets with Mohammed Bin Zayed Nahyan, crown prince of the UAE, on Dec. 10. Photo courtesy of Republic of Korea Blue House/Yonhap

The Hankyoreh reported Thursday a total of six deals, including five non-disclosed agreements, were signed during former President Lee Myung-bak’s time in office.

The former administration had reportedly pledged to provide military aid to the UAE in exchange for the operation of a nuclear plant in the country.

The UAE may have asked for high-level military cooperation from Seoul ahead of choosing an operator for the plant, according to the report.

South Korean news service EDaily reported Thursday among a total of 40 UAE requests was a proposal South Korea provide troops to the country.

Kim Tae-young, the South Korean defense minister in 2010, told a parliamentary committee at the time the Gulf state made those demands, and the Lee administration did not agree to military support.

South Korea eventually deployed a special operations force to provide education and training for special forces, according to former government officials.

The discussions between South Korea and the UAE kept a low profile because any type of military support could provoke Iran and neighboring countries.

In a criticism of the deals and past administrations, a ruling party lawmaker said they are a “special case of collusion by the nuclear power mafia and defense mafia.”

Presidential Blue House Chief of Staff Im Jong-seok visited with South Korean special forces in the UAE on Dec. 10.

The president’s office has provided no comment on the deals, but said the objective of the visit was to “deliver a handwritten letter from President Moon Jae-in.”

By Elizabeth Shim