The following are details of an interview with Charge d’Affaires Bakhtier N. Ibragimov of the Republic of Uzbekistan in Seoul.--Ed.
“It is a high privilege for me to address today the esteemed readers of “The Korea Post” on the occasion of the 23rd Anniversary of Uzbekistan’s independence. The foundation of bilateral relations between our states was laid on December 30, 1991, when the Republic of Korea among the first countries recognized Uzbekistan’s independence. Subsequently, the diplomatic relations were established on January 29, 1992. Ever since our countries have been engaged in vigorous political dialogue. The intensity of close cooperation can be manifested by the fact that over the past 22 years there have been thirteen summit meetings between our heads of state. Within a short period of time our countries have gained enormous experience of mutually beneficial cooperation in political, trade-economic, investment and cultural-humanitarian areas that serves as a solid foundation for the further implementation of long-term joint projects between Uzbekistan and the Republic of Korea in all these spheres. In March of 2006 our countries signed the Joint Declaration on Strategic Partnership that greatly contributed to furthering and strengthening multifaceted Uzbek-Korean relations and elevated them to a new qualitative level.
In general, over the 22 years of diplomatic relations a solid legal basis for bilateral cooperation has been laid which today encompasses more than 300 documents that streamline collaboration in different fields which further diversified Uzbek-Korean relations and filled them with practical content of strategic partnership between our nations. The Government of Uzbekistan is strongly committed to working closely with South Korea in further advancing this strategic partnership and widening the horizons of comprehensive cooperation. In order to maintain such collaboration a special importance acquires the continuation of regular dialogue between the leaders of the two countries that has been one of the hallmarks of Uzbek-Korean bilateral relations. In June this year President Park Geun-hye paid a State visit to the Republic of Uzbekistan. During the summit with country’s President Islam Karimov a wide range of bilateral and regional issues have been thoroughly discussed and perspective areas of collaboration have been identified.
“We consider the first State Visit by President Park Geun-hye to Uzbekistan as a vital political and symbolic event in the history of Uzbek-South Korean relations, as a firm aspiration of the two sides to continue with and expand the frameworks of the traditionally fruitful dialogue at the highest level, to give a new potent impetus to the consolidation of ties of friendship and strategic cooperation,” President Islam Karimov said during the meeting with his Korean counterpart.
The two heads of state after the summit signed the “Joint Declaration between the Republic of Uzbekistan and the Republic of Korea on the further development and deepening of the strategic partnership” that defines perspectives areas of cooperation in political, trade-economic, investment, cultural-humanitarian areas as well as collaboration in the framework of international organizations.
Uzbekistan, as an initiator of establishing the Central Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone, is adamant supporter of Seoul’s aspiration for denuclearization of the Korean Peninsular.
The Parties have been actively promoting inter-parliamentary cooperation. In 1995, in the National Assembly of the Republic of Korea a Parliamentary Association of Friendship “Korea-Uzbekistan” was founded. In 2005, in the Legislative Chamber of the Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan a similar group of cooperation with Korea was established. These institutions play an important role in furthering inter-parliamentary collaboration and supporting the overall process of strengthening the bilateral relations.
Since 1995 Foreign Ministries of the two countries have been on regular basis holding political consultations. The last session of such consultations took place in Seoul in April this year in which the parties in a frank manner discussed all aspects of bilateral relations, exchanged views on important international and regional issues that are of mutual interest.
Since 2007 a Forum “The Republic of Korea--Central Asia” has been annually convened. Its primary purpose to strengthen and expand cooperation in the area of economy, culture, education, tourism as well as to share experience in the field of information-telecommunication technology, construction and transportation.
Today Korea is among the most important economic and investment partners of Uzbekistan. Over the past 10 years the trade turnover between the two countries has increased 4 fold while the total volume of the announced Korean investments into the economy of Uzbekistan exceeded $6 billion.
Currently our countries have been cooperating in implementing a number of big investment projects that give great impetus to deepening cooperation in investment and energy sectors. Among them is the construction of the Ustyurt gas-chemical complex. This project worth $4 billion is carried out jointly with KOGAS, Lotte Chemical and STX Corporations. Its successful completion in 2015 will be another important landmark in bilateral investment cooperation.
Uzbekistan is one of the leading countries in the world in terms of reserves of precious, base and rare metals, uranium, natural gas and other fossil fuels. This serves as a solid basis for joint economic and investment collaboration. For example, the Korean National Oil Corporation currently is conducting geological exploration in Uzbekistan while other companies are involved in the development of other deposits.
However, we do not limit our cooperation only to exploration of natural resources. Intensive collaboration is underway in the manufacturing sector, including the automotive industry. At the present time more than 35 Korean companies are involved in manufacturing Uzbek cars.
There are a myriad of opportunities also for enhancing investment cooperation in mining, oil-gas, petrochemical, construction, automobile-manufacturing and textile industries as well as in agriculture and in the field of energy saving technologies. Today in Uzbekistan there are more than 410 enterprises with the Korean side participation.
Logistics are another area of cooperation. The world largest air-cargo carrier Korean Air for the past six years has been managing an International Logistic Center at the Airport of Navoi that is located next to Navoi Free Industrial Economic Zone which creates exceptional conditions for developing economically viable production and swift delivery of manufactured products to global markets through an effective system of multimodal transportation networks.
Our countries have also been closely cooperating in the financial sector. Recently, with EDCF’s preferential loans we have implemented four projects in the areas of telecommunication, healthcare and education.
Active bilateral cooperation has been underway with the Korean Agency for International Cooperation. As of today more than 1400 specialists of different ministries and agencies of Uzbekistan have undergone trainings in South Korea through KOICA’s programs.
Our countries also successfully cooperate in the cultural-humanitarian field, and especially in expanding exchanges and interactions in the area of education, tourism and sport. One of the concrete results of such collaboration is the creation in the capital of Uzbekistan, Tashkent, of the Seoul Park that became another symbol of special relations between our countries.
The Korean Diaspora in Uzbekistan, which is one of the largest in the world, plays an important role in strengthening friendly relations between our two countries. During President Park’s recent State visit to Uzbekistan the foreign ministers of the two countries signed a Memorandum of understanding on creation of the House of Korean Culture and Art in Uzbekistan. Among main purposes of this House is to provide favorable conditions for the preservation of cultural heritage, traditions and art of Uzbekistan’s Korean Diaspora.
The Korean Government has expressed its strong interest in rendering necessary assistance in creating the House of Korean Culture and Art. The Uzbek side hopes that Korean companies and various organizations will also make their own contribution to building this Center given its cultural, educational and humanitarian nature. The successful creation of the House would not only meet Uzbekistan’s Koreans needs but also would be among initial practical steps in gradual implementation of President Park’s “Eurasian Initiative” and stimulate other countries of the Eurasian region to be more actively involved in the process of bringing this vision to fruition.
All-in-all, since the establishment of diplomatic relations, the Republic of Korea has been for Uzbekistan a time-tested and reliable strategic partner that renders coherent support in implementing in our country important national programs of drastic reforms and modernization of economy and social sphere. In this regard Uzbekistan strives for further developing and strengthening mutually beneficial relations with the Republic of Korea that serves the interest of the two countries and their peoples.
In conclusion, taking this opportunity, I would like to wish to the esteemed readers of this reputed magazine every success in all their endeavors, longevity and well-being”.
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