South Korea’s Moon Sells K-Pop, Missiles on Mideast Trip


SOUTH KOREAN President Moon Jae-in (picture) put on a display of both hard and soft power in the Middle East, closing a $3.5 billion missile deal and hosting a K-Pop concert for United Arab Emirates leaders. 

South Korea agreed to sell the UAE Cheongung II midrange surface-to-air missiles during Moon’s visit to the Persian Gulf nation, Defense Acquisition Program Administration chief Kang Eun-ho told reporters Sunday in Abu Dhabi. The two sides committed to expand ties between their defense industries after the contract, which will involve LIG Nex1 Co., Hanwha Systems Co. and Hanwha Defense Systems Corp.

The deal was valued at an estimated 4 trillion won ($3.5 billion), according to a person familiar with the discussions. The figure was also reported by the Yonhap News Agency. 

Separately, Moon and Busan Mayor Park Heong-joon attended a K-Pop concert at the Dubai Expo Jubilee Park featuring Psy, Stray Kids, Sunmi and Golden Child. The event was intended to promote Busan’s bid to host the World Expo in 2030.

The two events at the start of Moon’s weeklong swing through the Middle East showed off South Korea’s status as a growing source of technological, as well as cultural, exports. The U.S. ally was the world’s largest arms exporter in 2016-20, according to the Korea Research Institute for Defense Technology Planning and Advancement, and last year closed a A$1 billion ($716 million) deal to sell K9 Thunder self-propelled 155mm howitzers to Australia.

The UAE has been allied with Saudi Arabia as it jockeys with Iran for strategic advantage in the oil-and-gas-rich region. Earlier Sunday, Moon discussed ways to boost technological cooperation, including hydrogen, space and agriculture, in a meeting with UAE Prime Minister Mohammed Al Maktoum. 

Moon, who’s single five-year term ends in May, was unable to hold a planned summit with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed. The emirate’s de facto ruler canceled the meeting due to an “unforeseen matter of state,” South Korea’s presidential office said, without elaborating.

Moon is also scheduled to visit Saudi Arabia and Egypt.