Reem Island to house hundreds of Korean expats in new deal

Reem Investments to build Korean real estate project in bid to capitalise on influx of workers
View across Abu Dhabi skyline towards Reem Island
By Claire Ferris-Lay
Mon 16 Jan 2012 10:46 AM

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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