Asean countries are set to overtake the Middle East as a top source of contracts for South Korean construction companies, as this region ramps up investments in infrastructure.
The uptrend was noted by South Korean President Moon Jae-in yesterday when he visited the worksite for the upcoming East Coast integrated depot.
South Korea's GS Engineering and Construction Corporation is building it following its winning bid of $1.99 billion in 2016.
President Moon, who was in town for the Asean Summit which concluded yesterday, said: "Korean firms are on course to win more contracts in South-east Asia than in our traditional stronghold in the Middle East."
This is due in part to South-east Asian countries ramping up their investments in infrastructure in recent years, he added.
It coincides with the decline in construction orders from the Middle East, a fall reported by Seoul-based news portal BusinessKorea earlier this year.
The International Contractors Association of Korea said orders from the Middle East amounted to US$3.62 billion (S$4.98 billion) in the first four months of this year, a sharp drop from the US$8.33 billion in the same period last year.
PLENTY OF OPPORTUNITIES
In the last six years, Korean companies have won (railway) tenders worth more than $6 billion, which is about 5 trillion Korean won. That is a lot of contracts against a lot of competition.
TRANSPORT MINISTER KHAW BOON WAN, on the work South Korean construction firms are doing in Singapore.
The integrated depot, occupying 36ha, will be able to house 220 trains and 760 buses when it is completed in 2024.
Its train depots are for three MRT lines: East-West, Downtown and the upcoming Thomson-East Coast lines.
The trains will be stacked on different levels, one on top of the other, while the buses will occupy an adjacent bus depot.
The depot's unique design has helped save about 44ha of land, which is particularly important in land-scarce Singapore, noted Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan, who accompanied the South Korean leader on his visit.
Mr Moon pointed to it as a prime example of Korean technology, saying that such multi-storey train depots are not often built because of the sheer weight of the trains.
He also said that in the past, South Korean companies competed on price. But now, it is time for them to use state-of-the-art technology and smart construction as a selling point, he added.
Mr Moon also called on his country's smaller companies to join forces with larger ones, as well as with financial institutions and the South Korean government, to win more lucrative contracts abroad.
This will also help boost their profile on the international stage, he said.
Mr Khaw, who is also Singapore's Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure, observed: "In the last six years, Korean companies have won (railway) tenders worth more than $6 billion, which is about 5 trillion Korean won. That is a lot of contracts against a lot of competition."
Besides the integrated depot, GS Engineering and Construction is also building the Woodlands MRT station on the Thomson-East Coast Line.
It got the contract in 2013 with a $292 million bid.
In more recent years, Samsung C&T Corporation won a $555 million contract in 2016 to build the Marine Parade MRT station on the same line.
South Korean companies have "worked well" with the Transport Ministry in building transport infrastructure here, said Mr Khaw.
Noting the ongoing expansion of Singapore's rail network and other construction projects, he added: "Going forward, I think there are a lot of opportunities to work together."