By Publisher Lee Kyung-sik with Editor Kevin Lee
“The economies of Kazakhstan and Korea are complementary. Kazakhstan has a rich resource base and a large territory and Korea has high technologies,” said Ambassador Bakyt Dyussenbayev of Kazakhstan in Seoul at an exclusive interview with The Korea Post media on Feb. 7, 2022.
At the interview at the Embassy of Kazakhstan in Seoul with The Korea Post media, publisher of 3 English and 2 Korean-language news publications since 1985, Ambassador Dyussenbayev said, “I think that the relations of the two counties have very good prospects. Politically, we have no unresolved issues or questions.
In addition, we should not forget such a factor as the large Korean diaspora in Kazakhstan, which is an important factor in rapprochement.” Ambassador Dyussenbayev also said that another important element is the great positive image that South Korea has in Kazakhstan.
The following are excerpts from the interview with Ambassador Dyussenbayev:
Question: Please introduce Your Excellency’s impression of the bilateral relations and cooperation on the meaningful occasion of the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Please also introduce the latest developments in your esteemed country.
Answer: The current interaction of Kazakhstan with the Republic of Korea is characterized by high dynamics of political and economic cooperation. Nur-Sultan is the main political and economic partner of Seoul in the Central Asian region.
High-level contacts are maintained on a regular basis.
In August 2021, President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev paid a state visit to the Republic of Korea. This visit was the first visit by a foreign head of state since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. As a result of this visit, a Joint Statement on the expansion of strategic partnership was adopted.
One of the important points of the program of the state visit of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev was the transfer of the remains of the Korean hero General Hong Beom Do, previously buried in the Kyzylorda region. This move found a wide positive response among the people of South Korea and helped to increase the recognition of Kazakhstan.
In 2022, Jan. 28 marks the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries. In this regard, large-scale work is being carried out between the relevant ministries to hold various events in honor of this event.
Q: Please introduce your Head of Government in detail, including his major achievements.
A: At the beginning of Jan. 2022, a new Prime Minister, Mr. Alikhan Smailov, was appointed and an updated composition of ministers was formed.
If we talk about the main achievements of Kazakhstan over the years of Independence, it can be noted that the volume of Kazakhstan's GDP increased 17 times - from $11.4 billion in 1993 to $190 billion in 2021. From $1.5 billion in 1991, trade grew to $100 billion. Kazakhstan's international reserves grew from $711 million in 1993 to $90.9 billion.
Since 2005, the gross inflow of foreign direct investment has amounted to $350 billion. Kazakhstan ranks first in the CIS in terms of net foreign direct investment per capita.
At present, the share of small and medium-sized businesses in the economy is 33%, the number of people employed in this sector is 3.4 million people.
During the years of Independence, 181.4 million square meters of housing put into operation, up to 22.6 square meters increased the area of housing per inhabitant - from 14.4 square meters in 1991.
The industry of sovereign Kazakhstan has mastered the production of more than 500 new types of products - petrochemistry, vehicles, transformers, pharmaceuticals, medical products, food and much more.
For 30 years, Kazakhstan has established itself as a mature democratic state with stable state institutions and a strong competitive economy. Fully integrated into the world trade and economic system and proved to be a reliable partner. Formed as the economic leader of the Central Asian region, Kazakhstan ensured internal political, inter-ethnic and inter-confessional stability. It strengthened in the international arena as an authoritative and stable state with a multi-vector and balanced foreign policy.
Q: What is the present volume of bilateral trade, its outlook in the next 12 months?
A: Kazakhstan is Korea's largest trade and economic partner in the Central Asian region. At the end of 2021, the trade turnover between our countries amounted to $3.2 billion. Over the past 15 years, the Republic of Korea has invested about $6.7 billion in the economy of Kazakhstan. For 9 months of 2021, FDI amounted to $506.6 million.
Q: 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?
A: I think that our relations have very good prospects. Politically, we have no unresolved issues or questions. In economic terms, our economies are complementary, we have a rich resource base and a large territory, your country has high technologies. In addition, we should not forget such a factor as the large Korean diaspora in Kazakhstan, which is an important factor in rapprochement. Another important element is the great positive image that South Korea has in Kazakhstan.
Several important projects are currently being implemented. Given Kazakhstan's rich mineral resource base, we are working to be a reliable supplier of the critical rare earth elements required by the electronics industry.
As our President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev noted earlier during his state visit to the Republic of Korea, we are interested in creating joint production of computer equipment, network equipment, data processing centers. Kazakhstan is also working to roll out a 5G network.
We invite Korean companies to take part in the implementation of 5G projects in Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan plans to increase the share of alternative energy to 30% by 2030, of which 15% will be produced using renewable energy sources. To do this, in the near future we plan to implement projects with a capacity of 3-4 GW of electricity. Therefore, the experience of the Korean side is of great interest to us.
Q: What are your competitive products and/over services attractive to Korea? Who are the companies of your country exporting your products to Korea?
A: Kazakhstan is pursuing a policy of diversification of the national economy and is focused on the development of agriculture, agrarian, light and heavy industry.
In this regard, I would like to note the great competitiveness of Kazakh agricultural products.
First of all, Kazakhstan is one of the largest producers of wheat in the world. Considering that wheat is already one of the leading non-oil export products, bringing wheat exports to the South Korean market will significantly help diversify the economy of Kazakhstan.
Also, Kazakhstan has a great potential for the export of livestock products. Given the high demand for meat in South Korea, Kazakhstan could be a great alternative for Korean citizens.
Q: What are the Korean products and services that your country might wish to import?
A: Today in Kazakhstan there is a great demand for South Korean cars and mobile devices. Kazakhstanis express great trust and interest to South Korean technologies, and I believe that South Korean products will continue to be highly popular in Kazakhstan.
It is also worth noting that recently, due to the spread of the Korean wave around the world, a large number of Korean restaurants and various South Korean shops have appeared in Kazakhstan.
In addition, South Korean cosmetics are in high demand in Kazakhstan. Already today, a lot of Korean cosmetics stores have appeared in our country and it is very popular among the female population of the country.
Q: Who are the Korean companies actively engaged in bilateral economic cooperation, the SMEs as well as the big companies?
A: A number of large South Korean companies operate in Kazakhstan, such as Samsung Electronics, Shinhan Bank, Lotte, SK, KNOC, POSCO, etc. In general, 597 companies operate with the participation of Korean capital. There is a large Hyundai car assembly plant in Almaty city.
There are 597 joint ventures with Korean capital in Kazakhstan.
In general, there are more than 50 investment projects between our countries for a total amount of about 5 billion US dollars. As of today, 24 major projects worth 2.5 billion US dollars have been implemented in such areas as logistics, engineering, construction, food processing, mining and metals, electronics and the oil and gas industry.
Also between our countries there is the “Fresh Wind” New Economic Cooperation Program, signed in April 2019, during the state visit of the President of the Republic of Korea Moon Jae-in. The main goal of the program is to restart bilateral trade and economic cooperation in key sectors of the economy.
We have created a special working group, headed by the First Deputy Prime Minister of Kazakhstan Roman Sklyar for concrete work with Korean entrepreneurs.
It should be noted that both large and medium-sized South Korean companies successfully operate in Kazakhstan. Among them are:
Samsung Electronics: The company has been operating in the Kazakhstan market since the 90s. All the latest Samsung Electronics products are selling in Kazakhstan. We are currently negotiating to establish cooperation in the field of IT technologies.
Doosan Heavy Industries&Construction: In 2020, the company implemented an energy project in the West of Kazakhstan. In addition, the company intends to continue working in Kazakhstan. Now we are negotiating on promising areas.
SK E&C: This company, together with Turkish companies, is implementing the largest project in Kazakhstan, the construction of the Almaty ring road.
Lotte Confectionery: In 2013, the company acquired the largest confectionery factory in Kazakhstan, which is successfully operating. Today the company is expanding its business. In the future, I think there will be big projects.
Hyundai Motor Company: Together with Kazakh companies, an automobile plant was built in 2020. Currently, work is underway to expand the plant and produce new models of cars.
This is only a small part of the companies that implement their projects in Kazakhstan. We also see promising areas, following global trends. The main areas of cooperation are the development of IT technologies, the creation of pharmaceutical and industrial cooperation, agricultural production.
Also, it seems necessary to establish long-term strategic cooperation with Korea to ensure stable supplies of raw materials for manufacturers of electronics, displays, semiconductors, smartphones, etc. Kazakhstan has a powerful mineral and raw material and fuel and energy base and is not a competitor in the production of final technological products.
On behalf of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, in 2021, a Special Working Group was established to work with South Korean investors, headed by the First Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Kazakhstan Roman Sklyar.
One of the main achievements of this working group was the launch of an international project of a ferroalloy plant in the Pavlodar region in the amount of $500 million. The opening of this joint venture with South Korea will create more than 1,000 jobs.
The investor of the international project was SIMPAC Group, an industrial holding company producing ferroalloys with over 60 years of experience. Engineering work is carried out by the South Korean company SAC, which is one of the leading players with wide technological experience in the implementation of relevant projects both in Korea and abroad.
Q: Korean people, especially the up-and-coming Korean businessmen need rest and recuperation. What are your tourist attractions?
A: Kazakhstan is a large country at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, the territory of which is the 9th largest in terms of area in the world. Hundreds of cultures and nationalities have harmoniously coexisted in this beautiful and colorful country for many centuries, giving its appearance a unique versatility.
The sights of Kazakhstan include natural and man-made, historical and modern monuments, which are concentrated on these lands in abundance. One of the main wealth of the country is the endless steppes, which store countless artifacts of antiquity. Everyone finds something to see in Kazakhstan, discovering something new and special for themselves here.
I would like to recommend a visit to the Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi, the most important shrine on the endless steppes of South Kazakhstan. The mausoleum was built in honor of the famous poet Ahmed Yasawi in 1405 in the place where his modest grave was previously located. The city of Turkestan, where the Mausoleum is located, was recognized as the capital of the Turkic world in 2021.
In addition, I would recommend a visit to the Baikonur Cosmodrome. For many decades, the Baikonur Cosmodrome has been and remains the world's most important platform for launching spacecraft. It was from here that the flight of the first man into space, the launch of the first artificial satellite, famous manned ships and orbital stations took place.
As I said earlier, the nature of Kazakhstan is diverse, and there are also a lot of beautiful places here. I would recommend that South Korean travelers definitely visit the picturesque 154-kilometer gorge - Charyn Canyon, stretching along the valley of the Charyn River. It was this river that for several million years carved a gorge in the rock, creating a unique landscape in this area.
I also would like to mention the Burabay National Park, which is often called the “pearl of Kazakhstan”. It is a beautiful oasis with blue lakes framed by high mountains and ancient pines.
This list can be listed for a very long time. But, I would like to focus on the new capital of Kazakhstan - the city of Nur-Sultan. Nur-Sultan is the youngest capital in the world. However, this is a modern city where you can see unique architectural sights.
Q: What are the most important festive days in your country? Please elaborate.
A: The most basic national holiday in our country is Independence Day, which is celebrated annually on Dec. 16-17. On Dec. 16, 1991, the Supreme Council adopted the Law “On the Independence and Sovereignty of the State”.
Kazakhstan became a sovereign and independent state exactly 30 years ago. The 30th anniversary of Independence is a significant milestone in the history of our centuries-old statehood. Over the entire period of independence, Kazakhstan has come a long way, marked by significant achievements and overcoming complex challenges. Our country has established itself as a mature democratic state with stable state institutions and a strong competitive economy. Kazakhstan has fully integrated into the world trade and economic system and proved to be a reliable partner.
Also, one of the main holidays in our country is Nauryz, which is celebrated on March 22. This holiday marks not only the spring equinox, but also the renewal of nature. Nauryz in Kazakhstan symbolizes fertility, friendship and love. On this day, people dress smartly, go to visit relatives and friends, and good wishes do not cease. For the Eastern peoples, Nauryz is the same as the New Year, because both holidays are considered to be the heralds of new life. Nauryz holiday in Persian means nothing more than "new day". The tradition of celebrating which has more than five thousand years.
Q: Do you have Honorary Consul(s) in Korea? If yes, how are they contributing to the promotion of cooperation and friendship between the two countries?
A: There are 2 Honorary Consuls of the Republic of Kazakhstan in the Republic of Korea. One of them is Koh Dong Hyun, he is the president of Dongil Construction. The Second Honorary Consul is Lee Sang Hoon, President of DongKwang Corporation. Honorary consuls make an unbearable contribution to the strengthening and development of bilateral relations between the two countries.
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: I was born in the North Kazakhstan region of Kazakhstan. Graduated from the Lomonosov Moscow State University and the Diplomatic Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation.
I devoted my whole life to the diplomatic service of Kazakhstan. I have been working in the system of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan since 1993, I have gone from an ordinary Referent to an Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary.
Q: Please add whatever other details that Your Excellency might consider to be important.
A: Kazakhstan and Korea are strategic partners and our countries have a great potential for the development of bilateral relations. I hope that in the near future we will be able to fully realize our full potential and raise the level of interaction to a qualitatively new level.