The Kyrgyz Republic in Central Asia, situated on the west of China and east of Uzbekistan, is a country fast becoming one of the promising economic partners of the Republic of Korea. There are some 20,000 Koreans and ethnic Koreans living in Kyrgyzstan who are actively engaged in the promotion of relations and friendship between Korea and Kyrgyzstan.
There is great potential for increased cooperation between the two countries and this was immediately apparent at a recent interview with Ambassador Dinara Kemelova of the Kyrgyz Republic in Seoul, which was conducted on the occasion of the Independence Day of the country on August 31, 2021.
Nowadays economic cooperation between Korea and other countries of the world has become very important, and many competitive Korean companies plan to expand their investment overseas. Details of the interview follow:
Question: What are the areas in your country where you want Korean companies to invest and what are the areas where you wish your businessmen to invest in Korea?
Answer: Our country is located in the center of the Eurasian continent and has a convenient geographical location, investment attractiveness, which provides for a liberal investment regime and investment protection.
As for the arguments in the attractiveness of Kyrgyzstan for Korean investors, our government has taken all measures for favorable investment climate with low taxes, qualified labor forces and natural resources.
I would like to note that Kyrgyzstan is surrounded by beautiful mountains and has large reserves of useful minerals. Among the attractive sectors, I would like to note these are energy, infrastructure, tourism, IT, agriculture, infrastructure projects, and the textile industry.
Each sector is interesting in its own way, in addition to the previously listed there are many other useful projects. For example, for foreign investors there are great opportunity of developing food processing and packaging of organic foods, where we need Korean investments and technologies.
I would like to note that starting this year, an intergovernmental project is being implemented in the textile industry, where Kyrgyz companies will get the experience of Korea and, as a result, joint ventures will probably be created in Kyrgyzstan.
Another attractive industry is tourism. More than 5 million tourists visit Kyrgyzstan annually. Our country is famous for its beautiful lakes and mountains. I would especially like to mention the Issyk-Kul Lake, which is the pearl of Kyrgyzstan. Hotels, resorts and other entertainment centers can be built around the lake.
It is important to emphasize that Kyrgyzstan is a member of the EAEU with a 180 million market, as well as the fact that our country has the GSP + status, which gives the right to export more than 6,000 items of goods produced in the Kyrgyz Republic into the EU market on duty-free basis. If Korean investors build an enterprise in the Kyrgyz Republic, then the manufactured products can be supplied to the Eurasian and European markets with no taxes.
As for the Kyrgyz companies in Korea, they could have joint projects in logistics, trade and digitalizing the provision of services. There are logistic and trade companies, as well as small restaurants with Kyrgyz and Central Asian cuisine of Kyrgyz citizens in Seoul and Incheon, other cities of South Korea.
Q: Nowadays, economic cooperation is very important between the two countries. Who are the major Korean Companies actively engaged in bilateral economic cooperation?
A: South Korean companies in Kyrgyzstan are involved in many areas. In particular, we can note their participation in scale construction, trade, financial and insurance activities, in the mining industry and others. Among the large Korean companies, Samsung, LG and Hyundai have official distributors in Kyrgyzstan. They are mainly involved in the wholesale and retail sale of smartphones, household appliances and vehicles. More than 200 small and medium-sized Korean enterprises are registered and operate in Kyrgyzstan.
On May 21, 2021, the Korean companies BS Group and TTVenture invested a PCR laboratory at the Manas airport in Kyrgyzstan, which currently uses the latest equipment and reagents that have no analogues in Kyrgyzstan and the CIS countries.
Now we work on a visit to Kyrgyzstan by a South Korean business delegation consisting of the heads of the Korean companies like KT (Korea Telecom), BioSmart (BS-Group), GS-Retail for future joint projects.
Q: What are the latest developments in the esteemed country of Your Excellency? What are the latest developments between the country of Your Excellency and Korea?
A: You know, lately there have been many important changes in the internal political situation in Kyrgyzstan. In January of this year, early presidential elections were held in the country, in which the current President of the country Mr. Sadyr Japarov won. In addition, two referendums were held on determining the form of government of the Kyrgyz Republic and on the draft new Constitution, which was adopted on May 5 this year. According to the new Constitution, our country is currently a presidential republic, like the Republic of Korea. The government of the republic was reformatted into a cabinet of ministers, the head and members of the new cabinet of ministers were approved in May, and in general I would like to note the many similarities in the systems of government of South Korea and Kyrgyzstan. In autumn, it is planned to hold parliamentary elections of the 7th convocation. This year, after the adoption of a new constitution, the parliamentary elections transformed to a mixed proportional representation and majoritarian voting systems.
This year the Kyrgyz Republic celebrates the 30th anniversary of its independence. In this regard, the Embassy of the Kyrgyz Republic has planned a number of events in Seoul to coincide with this anniversary date.
Regarding the development of Kyrgyz-Korean reliable relations, I would like to note that Kyrgyzstan considers South Korea one of the main and reliable partners of Southeast Asia. Since the start of diplomatic relations, the parties have built friendly, trusting relations and established close cooperation in various fields. More than 29 years of partnership confirms the firm intention of Bishkek and Seoul to further strengthen and expand the level of bilateral relations. There are more than 50 bilateral treaties and MOU have been signed between two countries since the establishment of diplomatic relations.
The parties conduct an active dialogue and maintain dynamic cooperation. This is confirmed by the numerous events and exchanges of high-level visits that have taken place. A landmark event in the history of bilateral relations was the first official visit of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea Mr. Lee Nak-yon to Kyrgyzstan on July 17-19, 2019. Within the framework of the visit, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea met with the President of Kyrgyzstan and held talks at the level of heads of government, which were accompanied by business -forums with the participation of 50 Korean companies and 200 entrepreneurs of the Republic of Korea. During the visit, several agreements were signed and important issues were discussed aimed at expanding cooperation in trade, transport, tourism, agriculture, industry, information technology, education, etc.
Recently, for the first time in the history of Kyrgyz-Korean relations, from April 3 to 5, 2021, the Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Korea Mr. Park Byeong-seug visited the Kyrgyz Republic. The program of the visit of Speaker Park Byeong-seug to Kyrgyzstan was intense: negotiations of the South Korean delegation with President Mr. Sadyr Japarov, Toraga Jogorku Kenesh (Speaker of Parliament) Talant Mamytov, Prime Minister of the Kyrgyz Republic Mr. Ulukbek Maripov, participation in the ceremony of laying a capsule for the construction of a new fire and rescue part in the city of Cholpon-Ata within the framework of KOICA grant assistance, as well as familiarization with the tourism potential of Kyrgyzstan.
Kyrgyzstan is also interested in promoting the "New Northern Policy" initiative of South Korean President Moon Jae-in and participating in its events and projects. With the practical implementation of this initiative, good prospects will open up for us to attract Korean investments and various assistance for priority projects in Kyrgyzstan.
In this context, I would like to share some good news, this year the Government of South Korea has included Kyrgyzstan in the list of priority partner countries.
In 2022, we will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between our countries; the corresponding preparatory work has already begun. I think that there is a need to raise the level of bilateral ties to partnership cooperation. In this regard, it is necessary to fill the current and next years with a richness of events and the practical implementation of priority projects in various fields. I hope by joint efforts by the next anniversary year we will be able to launch any major national project in the light of the 30th anniversary celebration.
Q: Please introduce your Head of Government in detail, including major achievements.
A: As in any developed country, there is a legislative, executive and judicial branch. After the adoption of the new Constitution on May 5 of this year, the Kyrgyz Republic, as noted above, became a country with a presidential form of government. The President is the head of state and heads the executive branch of the Kyrgyz Republic, who determines the structure and composition of the Cabinet of Ministers, with the consent of the parliament, appoints the Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers, his deputies and other members of the Cabinet of Ministers. It is important to note that, according to the new Constitution, the institution of the People's Kurultai has been introduced, a kind of public-representative assembly, which, as an advisory, supervisory assembly, gives recommendations on the directions of the country's social development.
In his election presidential campaign, Mr. Sadyr Japarov who was elected as president of the Kyrgyz Republic in January of this year, voiced the main points of his program for the development of the country, which covered such important points as: the eradication of clan and family rule, the fight against corruption, trust, the establishment of the dictatorship of the law, openness, transparency and justice, the preservation of the unity and cohesion of the people, direct dialogue with the people, improving the socio-economic situation of the country, protecting the rights and interests of foreign investors and their investments, reforms in public administration and the judicial system, digitalization, reconciliation with political opponents, amnesty, etc.
On May 5 of this year, President Sadyr Japarov addressed the people of Kyrgyzstan, where he outlined the main directions where the government's efforts will be directed, including the implementation of economic reforms, including the development of fiscal, court, human rights, transport and logistics, as well as foreign trade policies. In addition, the primary task was to attract direct investment into the country's economy, increase the volume of exports, create favorable conditions for doing business, while the priority areas were voiced as energy, agriculture, mining, ecology, digitalization, etc.
Thus, the new leadership of the country has already begun to carry out fundamental reforms in the country, in fiscal system aimed at improving governance, bringing business out of the shadows and fight against corruption.
Q: What is the present volume of bilateral trade, it's outlook in the next 12 months?
A: The potential of trade and economic cooperation between Kyrgyzstan and South Korea has great prospects, if it doesn’t take into account the coronavirus pandemic, then the annual growth was about 25%. However, today it should be noted that the level of trade is low, which varies within the range of USD 100 million. The main factor behind low trade is the geographical remoteness of the two countries.
In the near future we would like to focus on expanding export of organic foods as honey, chocolate, dried fruits, berries and textile products.
I hope that in the post-coronavirus period, we will strengthen trade cooperation and reach a higher level.
Q: What are your competitive products and/over services attractive to Korea? Who are the companies of your country exporting products to Korea?
A: As we all know, South Korea is geographically cut off from the mainland, and delivery of any goods is possible either by sea, rail or by plane. Geographic remoteness and complicated logistics make the issue of export expansion a little difficult. Nevertheless, we are working on branding of Kyrgyz products, and especially Kyrgyz honey, which, I hope, will take its rightful place in the South Korean market. The main components of imports from Kyrgyzstan to South Korea are goods such as edible roots, oil seeds, live plants, which are used mainly for the manufacture of cosmetics and we have a potential to import organic foods.
We pride ourselves on delicious and organic products like cherries, raspberries and other berries, fruits and vegetables grown in clean water and the sun.
Recently, our citizen Gulshayyr Nadyrbekova, based in South Korea, the Head of the NAG Group company, completed the complex process of obtaining the necessary certificates of the South Korean authorities, and she began supplying chocolate and Kyrgyz honey to the South Korean market. This year Korean company HESED has begun importing women's clothes from Kyrgyzstan.
As I told you earlier, tourism in Kyrgyzstan is quite developed. Currently, according to the international reservation system, tours can be planned in advance to our country. Our travel agencies work closely with many countries, including South Korea.
Embassy as much will support the activities of Kyrgyz and Korean companies aiming to export our products.
Q: What are the Korean products and services that your country might wish to import?
A: Korean goods are very popular in Kyrgyzstan. For example, Korean cosmetics, cars, construction equipment, household and electronic appliances, and others. We can mention that wholesale and retail trade between our countries is very developed.
In terms of services, South Korea is one of the leading countries in health care. Technologies in the field of healthcare are very popular. Of course, Kyrgyzstan is interested in the presence of Korean medicine, in particular, the possibility of investing to the diagnostic centers and a plastic surgery clinic in Kyrgyzstan. Many tourists come to Kyrgyzstan from different countries to rest. If such centers with Korean technologies and investment will open in Kyrgyzstan, then we can confidently assert that there would be many tourists coming from Russia and neighboring countries who would interested to have medical check-up and treatment along with outdoor activities.
Q: Korean people, especially the up-and-coming Koran businessmen need rest and recuperation. What are your tourist attractions?
A: During my stay in Korea, I understood that Koreans love outdoor activities, in particular, hiking in the mountains. I want to tell about my country. Kyrgyzstan is a picturesque, amazing mountainous country, on the territory of which a huge variety of attractions are concentrated. There are all four beautiful seasons and each is interesting in its own way.
Kyrgyzstan has ideal conditions for tourists who love extreme sports: mountain rivers for rafting, seven-thousanders for climbers, tracks for skiers and snowboarders.
On the territory of Kyrgyzstan, there are 2000 lakes, among them the largest high-mountain lakes in the world, such as Issyk-Kul, Son-Kul, Chatyr-Kul and Sary-Chelek. In addition, there are some of the highest mountain peaks: Pobeda Peak(7439m), Lenin Peak (7134m), Khan Tengri Peak (7010 m).
I want to note that for citizens of South Korea, as well as other developed countries, can enter to Kyrgyzstan without a visa for up to 60 days.
It is important to note that such reputable international agencies and publications as Bloomberg, Lonely Planet and others have compiled a rating of especially interesting places that tourists should visit in 2020, where Kyrgyzstan is also listed.
Q: What are the most important festivals in your country? Please elaborate.
A: Today, globalization causes a gradual narrowing of cultural diversity by standardizing vital functions. With the spirit of finding ways to preserve cultural diversity and humanization of sports, the Kyrgyz Republic proposed the idea of the first-ever World Nomad Games in 2012, the mission of which is to revive and preserve the culture, identity and ways of life of nomadic peoples in the era of globalization. We held World Nomad Games 3 times: in 2014, 2016, 2018 years.
Currently the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic distribute the list of exhibitions planned in Kyrgyz Republic for 2021. There are lots of festivals and events, which will be organized in the Kyrgyz Republic. You can learn more about the forthcoming events and festivals from Embassy’s website or official account of the Kyrgyz Embassy in Facebook.
Every year, on coast of our fabulously beautiful Issyk-Kul Lake a summer apricot, nomad, felt, honey and lots of other festivals take place. Each year, the relay race for this event moves from one village to another and lasts a whole week. The festival is very fond of the locals, as well as guests of the region. During the festival, specialists conduct seminars and trainings for participants, talk about new technologies in agriculture, and local gardeners exchange experience. The festival brings together on one site local gardeners, culinary specialists, entrepreneurs, processors of raw materials and guests of our country. For instance, during the apricot festival you can visit an interesting fair where you can buy different varieties of apricots, jams, dried apricots, a variety of pastries, and so on. Concerts are organized with the participation of pop stars, games and competitions. The most favorite competition at the festival is the culinary competition, the winners are awarded with prizes.
10. Do you have Honorary Consul in Korea? If yes, how are they contributing to the promotion of cooperation and friendship between the two countries?
Yes, we do have Honorary Consul of the Kyrgyz Republic in Seoul Mr. Kim Jong-goo. Mr. Kim helped many citizens of the Kyrgyz Republic with extending visas, charity activity, inviting Kyrgyz students for studying in Korea, as well as attracting Korean tourists and investments to Kyrgyzstan.
For example, in 2019 and this year our Honorary Consul helped the Embassy in promoting the touristic potential of the Kyrgyz Republic by making his contribution to the presenting Kyrgyzstan in the “Seoul International Tourism Fair 2021”.
The Embassy work on expanding the number of Honorary Consuls, because our citizens live, work and study in different cities of the Republic of Korea, including Busan, Gwangju, Daegu not just Seoul. That’s why we have started procedure of opening Honorary Consulate in Gyeonggi province.
Q: Your Excellency as the Ambassador of your esteemed country perform the important role of a bridge between the two countries. And the government, business and various other circles in Korea wish to learn more about Your Excellency. Please introduce yourself in detail, including your career, family and hobbies.
A: On February 2019, I took up the duties as the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Kyrgyz Republic to the Republic of Korea. Earlier, as the First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kyrgyz Republic, I had the opportunity to visit this wonderful country several times. But for so long I’ve been here for the first time.
My husband is also diplomat. He was Ambassador of the Kyrgyz Republic to Japan in 2011-2015 y. My daughter studies in Kookmin University on Entertainment Design faculty. My recent hobby is learning Korean language and culture.
There is also a high dynamic of the country’s development, business activity, as well as holding cultural events and festivals in various parts of South Korea to attract tourists. And it is very interesting for me and our state as a positive experience.
My country - the Kyrgyz Republic, which we call the country of Sky Mountains, with beautiful nature, numerous lakes and rivers, is an oasis in Central Asia. However not many South Korean citizens know about our ancient history, tourist attraction and rich culture. Therefore, one of the main tasks facing me and the staff of the Embassy is to make Kyrgyzstan recognizable for Koreans and a popular destination to visit.
Q: Please add whatever other details that Your Excellency might consider to be important.
A: On August 31, 2021 the Kyrgyz Republic celebrates the 30th anniversary of its Independence.
In fact, the statehood of the Kyrgyz people dates back several centuries. According to the history the Kyrgyz nation had their own state in the VIII, X, XVII centuries. The centuries-old history of the Kyrgyz people is marked by severe losses, incessant struggle for freedom and independence. After the collapse of the Soviet Union Kyrgyzstan gained the independence.
Since the beginning of its sovereignty, the Kyrgyz Republic has chosen the presidential-parliamentary path of development, the elections of the first president of Kyrgyzstan were held in 1991. The state has taken a course towards the development of a market economy and the implementation of democratic principles, the protection of human rights and freedoms.
Along with its achievements, the Kyrgyz Republic, which had a winding path towards democracy, has had certain difficulties too. The freedom-loving people of Kyrgyzstan had protested 3 times against the authoritarian regimes of the country, against the corrupted family-clan rule in 2005, 2010 and 2020. As a result of these mass protests of the population, three Presidents of the country have been displaced from the post.
Today Kyrgyzstan is one of the most democratic country in the Central Asia region. The country has an economic climate with liberal and favorable conditions for foreign investors and businessmen. And in this regard, Kyrgyzstan continues to attract South Korean investors.
Taking this opportunity, I would like to congratulate Kyrgyz citizens with the Independence Day of the Kyrgyz Republic and wish the peoples of Kyrgyzstan and the Republic of Korea friendship, peace and prosperity.