Iraq, Korea reaffirm joint reconstruction efforts
Iraq, unlike other oil-producing Middle Eastern countries, has an extra challenge in diversifying its economy.
The country’s push for economic transformation comes after a war involving the United States followed by another with the ISIS terrorist group, over which then-Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory in 2017.
At a reception in Seoul on Sept. 3, Iraq and Korea reaffirmed their cooperation to reconstruct the wartorn country to help implement the Iraq Vision 2030 initiative.
The initiative aims for social safety, job creation, urban planning, sustainable development and the digitalization of the economy by 2030, in coordination with other national development plans, such as the National Development Plan 2018-2022 and the National Poverty Reduction Plan as well as the U.N. sustainable development goals.
The Sept. 3 reception celebrated the 30th anniversary of Iraq-Korea diplomatic relations, attracting dignitaries from both sides.
From the Iraqi side were Ambassador to Korea Hayder Shiya Al-Barrak and Minister of Planning Nouri Al Dolaimi. The Korean side included President Moon Jae-in’s special adviser on Iraq Han Byung-do and Liberty Korea Party lawmaker Hong Il-pyo, who is also president of Korea-Iraq Parliamentary Friendship Group.
The two Iraqi officials listed the reconstruction projects involving the Korean government and enterprises and expressed appreciation of Korea’s support.
Among the projects are the Bismayah New City Project with Hanwha Engineering and Construction and the Karbala Refinery Project with Hyundai Engineering and Construction.
The Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), a foreign aid organization, has participated in projects on health, education, communication, infrastructure, women and children under the wing of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
With grants from the Seoul government, language labs have opened at Mosul University, the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs and the Ministry of Planning.
“It is worth mentioning here that this cooperation and partnership had preceded the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries,” Ambassador Al-Barrak said in his opening speech.
He referred to Hyundai Engineering and Construction’s involvement in a sewage plant project in Basra in 1978.
He said Korea was a good example, proving that distance did not necessarily hinder partnership between countries, adding, “Today, after shaking off the dust of war, destruction and tragedies, we set off with our Korean friends on a non-stop march of building and reconstruction.”
Al-Barrak assessed President Moon Jae-in’s appointment of Han in 2018 resulted from Moon’s belief in the importance of strategic partnerships with promising countries.
“I would like to seize this opportunity to invite all Korean companies to enter with confidence, and to invest vigorously in Iraq,” the ambassador said, underscoring that Iraq is “a secure, united and pluralistic country adopting democratic values for a peaceful transfer of power.”
Foreign investors, according to Al-Barrak, are offered all technical and logistic assistance, such as a single-window system, security and prompt entry visas.
In a separate speech, Minister Al Dolaimi said the Iraq-Korea relations were “witnessing an important stage amid Korea’s continuous support.”
He said, “It gives me pleasure to take part in the commemoration of the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Republic of Iraq and the Republic of Korea.”
He added that his government is “looking forward to the contribution of Korean governments” on reconstruction projects in areas liberated from ISIS.
He noted those areas have been badly damaged by terror attacks and need infrastructure reconstruction and rehabilitation.
Han said he witnessed the “strong will of the Iraqi government and the eagerness of Iraqis toward” reconstruction and economic development.
Iraqi Ambassador to Korea Hayder Shiya Al-Barrak, third from left, Iraqi Minister of Planning Nouri Al Dolaimi, fifth from left, President Moon Jae-in’s special adviser on Iraq Han Byungdo, fourth from left, and other dignitaries pose for a photo during a reception to mark the 30th anniversary of Iraq-Korea relations at the Seoul Parnas hotel in Gangnam-gu, southern Seoul, Sept. 3.