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[Opinion] Eying Dubai

Posted April. 26, 2006 03:17,   


Dubai, a city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), looks like New York or Las Vegas in the Middle East. Although UAE is an Islam nation, foreigners can enjoy alcoholic drinks at a hotel restaurant in Dubai. It even has a Hard Rock Café, an icon of American pop culture. There are also many luxury hotels, including the world’s only seven star hotel Burj Al Arab, magnificent shopping centers, and theme parks. The skyline of Dubai is changing everyday thanks to aggressive development efforts. Some even say that about 20 percent of tower cranes in the world are in the small nation with a population of 1.2 million.

It is the pragmatic opening policy of King Sheikh Mohammed, who came to the throne in January this year that helped grow Dubai into a financial, trade, and tourism hub. In the late 1990s when he was a crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed took the leadership role in formulating master plans such as “Vision 2010” and “Vision 2020.” Based on these plans, he committed himself to developing diverse industries as a national strategy to survive even after oil resources in the nation run out. During the reforms, he famously said, “A horse should pull a carriage. Not the other way around.”

Riding on the development boom in Dubai, Korean companies are actively making inroads into the country. Samsung Construction is building Burj Dubai, which will be the world’s highest building when completed (162 stories, 706m), with the goal of completion by the end of 2008. About 40 Korean businesses including home appliance makers, telecommunication providers, and construction companies will launch the “2006 Dubai Telematics and Home Network Road Show” jointly with Dubai on May 15-16.

Recently, some middle-aged women in Korea have been showing interest in houses in Dubai. This is due to the fact that the Korean government has allowed investment in overseas real estate. Wealthy Korean women who were engaged in real estate speculation, hopping like locusts from one to another development areas including Gangnam in Seoul in the 1970s and 1980s, are now poised to enter a new market. Their special “tie” with the Middle East is eye-catching because petrodollars made during a construction boom in the Middle East once flowed into Korea and were invested in real estate. Moreover, the world has become globalized now. Interestingly, by the way, Dubai is an Arabic word for locust.

Han Ki-heung, Editorial Writer, eligius@donga.com