Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo kicked off Thursday his six-day visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to enhance defense industrial ties by joining a global defense exhibition there.
On his UAE visit, Jeong will participate in the biennial International Defense Exhibition and Conference (IDEX) where he plans to meet with a group of defense chiefs from not just the country, but Oman, Egypt and Greece, according to Korea's Ministry of National Defense.
More than 1,500 defense companies from 70 countries will take part in the global event, seeking defense industrial ties. In Korea, thirty defense players, including Hanwha, LIG Nex1 and Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI), will exhibit their products during the five-day fair which will begin on Sunday in the UAE's capital city of Abu Dhabi.
"UAE Defense Minister Mohammad Ahmed Al Bowardi sent an official invitation for Jeong to join the defense fair where he will spare no efforts in promoting Korean defense firms," a defense ministry official said.
Upon taking office in September last year, Jeong has pledged to support local defense companies to strengthen their global competitiveness at a crucial time when the Korean defense industry faces growing uncertainties due to local defense giants' falling profits.
In December, he held a meeting with 13 heads of Korean defense companies to listen to their difficulties and help them raise a global profile to tackle their declining profitability.
IDEX is the largest and most influential defense exhibition in the Middle East where demands for defense products remain high.
"The Middle East is one of the most attractive markets for Korean defense firms along with South America and Southeast Asia," a defense industry official said. "In particular, one striking upside of the Middle East market is that rich countries there have enough purchasing power for defense products."
During the trip to the Middle East, Jeong also plans to visit the Korean military unit there, the Akh Unit, and encourage soldiers dispatched to the troop, according to the defense ministry.