Uzbekistan and South Korea are divided by a long distance. Despite this, these countries are bond with strong friendship ties. In 2006, Tashkent and Seoul signed a Joint declaration on strategic partnership. The two states regularly hold high-level meetings, which reflects the intensive development of bilateral relations.
The President of Uzbekistan visited Seoul as the honorary guest at the inauguration ceremony of the current President of South Korea Lee Myung-Bak in 2008. And in May 2009, the heads of two states met in Tashkent.
On 11 February, Islam Karimov and Lee Myung-Bak met in Chong Wa Dae, the South Korean President’s residence. The summit took place during the state visit of the President of Uzbekistan to Seoul.
At the face-to-face talks, the two leaders considered the present state and perspectives of relations between Uzbekistan and South Korea, as well as regional and international issues.
Islam Karimov said that Tashkent highly valued relations with Seoul, and that the summit was a demonstration of the interest of South Korea to cooperation with Uzbekistan.
Lee Myung-Bak stressed the meeting was a good opportunity to discuss the bilateral relations and prospects for their further expansion.
Among the issues the presidents considered were security, cooperation in fighting international terrorism and extremism, arms and drugs smuggling and non-proliferation of the weapons of mass destruction.
The two leaders discussed cooperation within international organizations. Uzbekistan and South Korea support each other’s initiatives of the international political arena. In particular, Tashkent supported Pyeongchang as a candidate for the 2018 winter Olympic Games.
Uzbekistan supports the position of Seoul on solving the problem on the Korean peninsula in a peaceful way, the South Korean leadership’s “New Asian Diplomacy” initiative and the energy strategy. Islam Karimov and Lee Myung-Bak were unanimous in opinion that denuclearization of the North Korea was an important condition for preservation of peace and stability in the North-East Asia.
The economic cooperation between Uzbekistan and South Korea is developing rapidly. The states implement large projects in oil and gas, mining, car building, logistics, textile and chemical industries, construction, ICT and other sectors.
The negotiations of the presidents continued with the participation of the official delegations of the two countries. The main focus of the talks was trade, economic, investment and humanitarian cooperation.
South Korea is one of the largest investment partners of Uzbekistan. The volume of South Korean investments in the Uzbek economy has exceeded USD 2 billion. South Korean companies are active in creation of the free industrial zone in Navoi.
Last March, during a conference in Seoul, the sides reached agreements on 35 investment projects worth a total of over USD 500 million to be implemented in Navoi region.
Cooperation of Uzbekistan with KOGAS, Korean Gas Corporation, includes conduction of geological survey works on gas deposits and their development, as well as production of polyethylene and polypropylene. Within this project, Uzbekistan is expecting to attract USD 3.12 billion of South Korean investments.
In the field of trade, Uzbekistan and South Korea have been enjoying the most favored country regime since 1992. In 2008, the bilateral trade turnover exceeded USD 2 billion, and last year the figure climbed to USD 1.2 billion. 351 Uzbek-South Korean joint ventures operate in Uzbekistan, along with 91 representative offices of South Korean companies.
The humanitarian cooperation between the two countries has also been expanding. In 1992, Korean Education Center was opened in Tashkent. Uzbek state world languages university and Samarkand state foreign languages institute have centers of Korean language and culture, while Tashkent IT university has an IT Center created with support of South Korea.
The Uzbekistan-Korea professional raining center was another achievement in the educational cooperation. Annually, 360 young people are taught here in the fields like PC assembly, agricultural machinery repairs, car service and others.
Uzbekistan-South Korea friendship society created in 1999 makes a large contribution to the development of cultural ties. It regularly organizes festivals, exhibitions, concerts and other events. South Korean musicians regularly participate in the Sharq Taronalari musical festival in Samarkand.
After the negotiations in Seoul, the sides signed a total of 16 documents, covering cooperation in areas like infrastructure, medicine, environmental protection, tourism, agriculture, etc. Among them are the Agreement on cooperation in development of alternative energy sources and power saving technologies and the Investment agreement on the project of construction of Ustyurt gas and chemical complex at Surgil deposit (north Uzbekistan).
Uzbekistan and South Korea also agreed on creation of a Seoul Park in the city of Tashkent.
Islam Karimov also met the Prime Minister of South Korea Chung Un-Chan. They discussed issues related to intensification of the cooperation between the two governments for successful implementation of the agreements reached during the visit.
President of Uzbekistan also held talks with the Speaker of the National Assembly (parliament) of South Korea Kim Hyung-o, which focused on expansion of the inter-parliamentary ties.
Islam Karimov visited the National Memorial Complex of South Korea, where he paid tribute to the memory of the sons of the Korean people, who gave their lives for the freedom of their Motherland, and laid flowers to the memorial.
On the last day of his visit, Islam Karimov received the chairman of the Korean Air company Cho Yang-Ho.
Korean Air is taking an active part in the creation of the free industrial and economic zone Navoi and development of the intercontinental logistics center.
In 2009, the South Korean carrier provided two cargo planes to Uzbekistan Airways national air company on a leasing basis, which are now used by the logistics center.
At present, 19 projects with a total cost of USD 187 million are being implemented in Navoi free industrial zone. In the second half of 2010, 16 projects will be completed, with launch of enterprises in chemical, oil, electronics, machinery building, pharmaceutics and other spheres.
So far, a learning center, a car technical service station, firefighting depot and fuel warehouse have been built, and a railway line laid. A cargo terminal is being constructed. In future, up to 30,000 tons of cargo will be processed here annually.
Air communication has been established from Navoi to Milan, Brussels, Bangkok, Delhi and Mumbai. Routes to Frankfurt, Dubai, Istanbul and Tel-Aviv will also open soon.
The Korean companies are also participating in the creation of the social infrastructure in Navoi region. Together with Korean Air, a housing complex for 9,000 people is being built. It will include healthcare, educational and cultural establishments as well.
At the talks in Seoul, Islam Karimov and Cho Yang-Ho discussed issues of cooperation between the air companies of the two states and further development of Navoi industrial zone.
The President of Uzbekistan also received the minister of strategy and finance of South Korea Yoon Jeung-Hyun. The sides considered further expansion of banking and financial cooperation between the two states.
The South Korean banking and financial establishments took an active part in the formation of the consortium for the construction of the Ustyurt gas and chemical complex in Uzbekistan.
As reported earlier, during the visit, the two states signed an investment agreement on the construction of the Ustyurt complex at Surgil deposit and development of this deposit. The total cost of the project is over USD 3 billion.
At the summit of the heads of two states that took place on 11 February, South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak stressed: “South Korea and Uzbekistan are close in many ways. The Koreans treat Uzbek people and Uzbekistan with a great respect. The people of South Korea showed a huge interest to the exhibition of national culture of Uzbekistan, which was organized at the Korean National Museum.”
The President of South Korea also noted: “At the time when most countries suffered from the global crisis, Uzbekistan showed economic growth. This, of course, was reached through a wise policy of the head of the country. In terms of anti-crisis measures, Uzbekistan, I believe, may be an example to many countries.”
The agreements reached in Seoul prove that the state visit of the President of Uzbekistan was fruitful in all respects.