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Head of UAE’s nuclear industry coming to Korea

Jan 02,2018
An influential adviser to the royal family of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Khaldoon Al Mubarak, will visit Korea later this month, the Blue House said Sunday.

That trip may resolve some of the mystery surrounding the presidential chief of staff’s abrupt visit to the Middle East country last month.

President Moon Jae-in sent his chief of staff Im Jong-seok to the UAE in December as his special envoy, stirring controversy. Although the Blue House initially insisted that Im’s trip was meant to cheer up Korean troops deployed to the UAE, it backtracked on that explanation later.

Im, accompanied by a senior intelligence official, met the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, and Khaldoon, chairman of the Executive Affairs Authority of Abu Dhabi and chairman of the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation. Korea won a $18.6 billion deal to build the UAE’s first nuclear reactor in 2009.

While the Blue House refused to elaborate on their discussion, opposition politicians said the two countries’ relations must have been damaged and Im was sent urgently to mend ties.

“Im said all questions will be answered after Khaldoon visits Korea in January,” a senior Blue House official said Sunday. It was the first time the Blue House admitted that the senior UAE official will visit Korea.

Over the past week, new suspicions grew about Im’s trip. Media said Im was sent to the UAE to help a conglomerate’s businesses in the country. Im met with SK Chairman Chey Tae-won shortly before his trip.

The Blue House admitted on Friday that the two met in early December, but said their meeting has nothing to do with Moon’s decision to send Im to the UAE.

“Chey might have talked about the UAE to Im,” said Yoon Young-chan, senior presidential secretary for public affairs. “But SK has no new project there, so it is not accurate to say that Im was sent to resolve SK’s business troubles in the UAE.”

A Blue House official said Im and Chey met outside the Blue House at the request of Chey, but no dubious dealings took place. “It is a part of the presidential chief of staff’s job to listen to the conglomerate owners’ appeals and explain the government’s economic policy,” he said.

SK also said it made no request for the Blue House’s help for its business in the UAE.

In November, Chey visited the UAE and met with Khaldoon. A UAE source informed about government affairs told the JoongAng Ilbo Chey was briefed about Abu Dhabi’s 2030 long-term development plan.

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]