Thursday, 13 November 2008, 02:32 EST
Koreans to withdraw at end of 2008
Korean troops pause for a photo in Erbil city. Photo/ Qassim Khidhir
By Qassim Khidhir
The Kurdish Globe
South Korea to continue aid to Kurdistan Region after its withdrawal.
Over the last four years, South Korea has helped to shore up Kurdistan Region with successful educational, medical, and construction programs.
After the withdrawal, South Korea will provide economic help to Kurdistan region, says a source who works with Korean troops in Kurdistan region.
South Korean troops will withdraw from Kurdistan Region at the end of this year, said a source requesting anonymity because he is not authorized to talk to the media. The anonymous source, who works closely with the Korean troops in Kurdistan Region, said that large Korean companies will come to Kurdistan to explore oil and conduct major construction projects.
Seoul has about 600 troops, most of them engineers and medics stationed in Erbil city.
Earlier, the state-run Korea National Oil Cooperation (KNOC) and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) signed an initial agreement to explore oilfields in Kurdistan in return for major construction projects in the region.
KNOC will support power plant construction and sewage and water treatment facilities worth US$600 million. In later stages, once certain conditions are met, the value of the projects will increase by another US$1.5 billion.
Under negotiation among S. Korean troops, the KRG, and the U.S. Army is whether after the withdrawal of Korean troops a U.S. battalion will take over the military base.
The source believes that once Korean troops are gone the relation between Korea and Kurdistan Region will not stay as strong as it is now. But if Kurdistan offers multiple business opportunities to Korean businessmen, relations are likely to remain strong.
"If the KRG thinks only of Korea as a source of donations, Korea cannot continue the relationship," said the source. "South Korea wants this bilateral relationship to be based on helping each other."
The source admitted that Korean companies don't currently have a lot of opportunities to do business in Kurdistan. He explained that for now, South Korea is only focusing on Kurdistan Region in Iraq to conduct business because of its stability.
"I believe the security situation in Kurdistan will continue, but it is not easy because of Turkey, Iran, and Iraqi Arabs," stated the anonymous source.
He said Kurdistan Region should be very careful in order to maintain security and hopes that the KRG forms good relations with Turkey.
Regarding U.S. President-elect Barack Obama's plans to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq, the source said that he doesn't believe the U.S. will withdraw before finishing the job. "Military cannot change very easily, and it will take a lot of time for the U.S. Army to adopt Obama's plan," said the source.
The Republic of Korea Zaytun Peace and Reconstruction Division in Erbil has been present since September 22, 2004, and has undertaken a great deal of projects with amazing success.
The Zaytun Division has supported the Kurdistan Region with medical, educational, and construction programs since its arrival. Most of the Korean troops in Erbil are engineers and medics; they have paved roads, constructed schools and health centers, and repaired water supply facilities. The unit has also treated thousands of local residents in its hospital, and offered industrial and systematic training to locals and government employees.