S. Koreans are coming to town
By : Abdulateef Al-Mulhim
During the past 10 years, the Saudi government initiated many mega projects to modernize the civic infrastructure. Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah personally launched many development projects in various spheres of life like new hospitals, highways, universities, railroad tracks, sports stadiums, oil and gas projects etc.
At a time when many of the neighboring countries are rocked by economic uncertainties and facing unrest and instability, Saudi Arabia continues to prosper and the authorities are continuously introducing various social and economic reforms for the benefit of the country and the people.
However, the delays in the completion of several projects and the quality of the end product irks many a Saudi. Various uplift projects are behind schedule and those completed after inordinate delays lack the quality we used to witness during the country’s early phases of development boom. Many people wonder why the projects in the past were finished on time and were of better quality. With advent of new technologies, this is a very valid question and presents a disturbing scenario.
Unlike many countries, there is no dearth of funds for those projects. Had there been any fund-related issue, these delays or lack of quality would have been understood. This situation reminds many Saudis of the first wave of South Koreans entering the Kingdom to work on various development projects. We have pleasant memories of the highly disciplined and hardworking South Korean work force. People in Riyadh still remember the so-called temporary overpasses to ease Riyadh congestions, which were built in a rush because of the dire need to regulate traffic.
Interestingly, those bridges are still in a much better shape than those constructed later and at higher budgets. Saudis still remember the South Koreans who came during the 1970s at a time when their country was amid economic and political uncertainties and many of the workers were very poor and simply needed work to support their families back home.
Many of them left the Kingdom not only with more money in their pockets but also with great experience they had gained while working on various uplift projects using then latest technology. The industrial city in Jubail and many other similar projects in parts of the Kingdom are testimony to their hard work.
South Korea has emerged as one of the most advanced industrial countries with the most skilled work force in the world. Just a few days ago a high-profile Saudi delegation visited South Korea and some Saudi papers reported that the Saudis wanted the South Koreans to come back to the Kingdom and help push building the unfinished projects. It is true that there are South Koreans in the Kingdom but apparently we are going to see more of them. Now, however, the South Korean work force is not as cheap as it used to be because of their skills and work ethic. Despite this factor, it is very important to bring skilled South Korean work force and expose the young Saudis to the work habits of the South Koreans because sooner or later, they will leave again and we should benefit from their ways of doing things. This is why it is all the more important for Saudi and foreign companies working on mega projects in the Kingdom to hire young Saudis and have them work side-by-side with the South Koreans. The current economic boom is guaranteed to last and we have to take advantage of every asset we have. There is a lot to learn from South Korea, which lacked many natural resources and assets but succeeded in beating all the odds and emerged as an economic miracle.
Email: almulhimnavy@ hotmail.com