ABU DHABI, South Korean President Moon Jae-in made a joint trip with the leader of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Monday to the construction site of a nuclear power plant being built by South Korea, highlighting the countries' special relationship, which began nine years ago.

The trip by Moon and Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammed bin Zaayed Al-Nahyan follows the recent completion of the first of four nuclear reactors at the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant. The other three reactors are set to be completed before the end of the year, according to the South Korean presidential office Cheong Wa Dae.

It also came one day after the two leaders agreed to upgrade their countries' relationship to a "special strategic partnership" in a bilateral summit held here. Moon arrived in Abu Dhabi Saturday on a four-day official visit that will later take him to Dubai.

"The Barakah reactors have indeed been barakah," President Moon said earlier in an interview with local news outlet Emirates News Agency, noting that barakah means blessings from God in Arabic.

"Now I believe it is time for the two countries to go beyond the area of physical economic relations, such as energy and construction projects, and start establishing a new initiative for future-oriented cooperation that will lead their growth and development," he said.

The countries established diplomatic ties in 1980, and upgraded them to a strategic partnership in 2009 when Seoul secured the contract worth nearly US$19 billion to build the Barakah reactors.

Monday's trip by Moon and the UAE leader underscored the importance of the Barakah plant for both South Korea and the Middle Eastern country, a Cheong Wa Dae official noted.

"Today's ceremony is very special. Eight members of Abu Dhabi's royal family, including the Crown Prince, took part in the ceremony, which marks a very rare occasion in the UAE. That shows how great their expectations are for nuclear cooperation and cooperation between the two countries," said Kim Hyun-chul, special advisor to President Moon for economic affairs, according to Cheong Wa Dae pool reports.

While meeting later with South Korean and UAE engineers and laborers at the plant, Moon said the Barakah reactors were important in that they were the first South Korean reactors in a foreign country, as well as the UAE's first nuclear reactors, but also because they have created new possibilities for the two countries.

"The cooperation model seen in the Barakah project that has successfully combined the countries' technology and financial resources will expand and deepen in various areas from now on. In the nuclear power plant sector, the countries will seek joint projects in third countries and bilateral cooperation between the two countries will expand to energy, health and welfare, semiconductors, science and technology, port operations and agriculture," the president said, according to the pool reports.

President Moon also noted the success of the Barakah project may help South Korean companies win new projects. He said the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi promised to give preference to South Korean firms in future projects in western Abu Dhabi.

"The story of life you are writing with your sweat here in the UAE will be recorded as another shining accomplishment in the history of the Republic of Korea's economic development," Moon told the workers. "The government will do its utmost so you may continue your work here with pride and purpose."

The trip also included a lunch with South Korean and UAE workers there, according to Cheong Wa Dae.

Source: Yonhap News Agency