NATIONAL

‘Kazakhstan-Korea relations beckon great expectations’

By Joel Lee

Similar to Korea that has achieved its “economic miracle on the Han River,” Kazakhstan is now universally recognized for its rapid growth and modernization since its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

  • Published : Dec 18, 2017 - 17:08
  • Updated : Dec 18, 2017 - 17:09
In the early 1990s, Kazakhstan and Korea barely knew each other.

But over the decades that followed, the two nations have strengthened their relations by leaps and bounds, becoming strategic partners and exploring new horizons for a shared sustainable future, Kazakhstan’s top envoy here highlighted last week while celebrating the silver jubilee of bilateral diplomatic relations.

Similar to Korea that has achieved its “economic miracle on the Han River,” Kazakhstan is now universally recognized for its rapid growth and modernization since its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Kazakhstan has become a shining example of progress and globalization in Central Asia, a region long insulated from the world under the Iron Curtain, analysts say.

There are currently more than 400 joint economic projects between Kazakh and Korean companies, trade turnover is expected to reach $1.2 billion this year and cumulative bilateral investments have reached $4 billion as of the first half of this year, according to Korea’s Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.

Eleven presidential summits have been held since the two nations established their diplomatic relations in 1992.

Kazakh Ambassador to Korea Dulat Bakishev (left) and Kim Chang-kyu, deputy minister and standing commissioner for the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, pose at a reception marking Kazakhstan’s National Day and silver jubilee of diplomatic relations with Korea in Seoul on Thursday (Joel Lee/The Korea Herald)

“Kazakhstan and Korea are actively cooperating in the international arena promoting global peace, stability and security, including a world free of nuclear weapons,” said Kazakh Ambassador to Korea Dulat Bakishev at a reception in Seoul on Thursday.

On Aug. 29 1991, Kazakhstan voluntarily renounced 1,400 nuclear warheads -- then the world’s fourth-largest atomic arsenal -- by closing down the Semipalatinsk test site, a primary experiment ground for the Soviet Union’s atomic arsenal. Kazakhstan has continuously urged the denuclearization of North Korea as an example of successful national development without nuclear weapons capability.

“Both countries share common positions on major global issues and fruitfully interact with each another at the United Nations,” he added, noting Astana is a nonpermanent member of the United Nations Security Council for 2017-18.

“Under the leadership of President Nursultan Nazarbayev, my country has made significant structural and economic reforms, so that our people today enjoy the fruits of political stability, democracy and free market economy,” the envoy said.

Astana has made substantial efforts to be integrated into the global economy in recent years, in large part through China’s “One Belt, One Road” global infrastructure and economic integration initiative. Over the past three years, the country has carried out large-scale infrastructure construction projects and created transport and logistics links to the world’s major markets, Bakishev said. 

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev (Office of the President)

The construction of the nearly 3,000-kilometer Kazakhstan section of the Western Europe-Western China International Transit Corridor has been completed, which will shorten the time needed to transport cargo from the port of Lianyungang in China to St. Petersburg in Russia to 10 days. Via this route, new opportunities for transporting goods between Kazakhstan and Korea using the seaports of Lianyungang, Busan and Incheon can be found, he pointed out.

Furthermore, the 900-kilometer Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Iran railroad corridor has recently been constructed to connect Central Asian countries to the Persian Gulf and the port of Bandar Abbas in southern Iran. The Khorgos-Eastern Gate dry port in eastern Kazakhstan bordering China has been built as the country’s first land port and Central Asia’s largest logistics park.

“These new routes have removed constraints on our infrastructures and shortened cargo transport time in all directions,” said the ambassador. “Kazakhstan today is an attractive destination for foreign investment, infrastructure development, logistics, transport and related services.”

Kim Chang-kyu, deputy minister and standing commissioner for the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, congratulated Kazakhstan for its “remarkable feats” in achieving political stability, economic development and related international recognition over the last 26 years.

“I express my sincere respect to the people of Kazakhstan for their remarkable achievements in pioneering their national destiny,” he said. 

Kazakhstsan's capital Astana (Max Paoli/Getty Images)

“Kazakhstan entered a period of economic and political crises following the independence in 1991, with severe shortages in foreign currency, skyrocketing prices of commodities, a lack of food and dilapidated production facilities. But Kazakhstan pressed on unwaveringly on the back of the government’s leadership and unified and tolerant spirit of people of diverse nationalities.”

Over the last 25 years, exchanges have grown comprehensively between politicians, parliamentarians and legislators, as well as civilians and students of Kazakhstan and Korea, Kim noted. Some 60,000 people from either side visited the other country in the last year, supported by eight direct flights between Kazakhstan and Korea every week.

Noting the administration of Korean President Moon Jae-in is invested in bolstering relations with Central Asian and Eurasian countries, Kim forecast bilateral ties will continue to grow in the future through complementary economic partnerships, especially after Seoul enters into a free trade agreement with the Eurasian Economic Union.

By Joel Lee (joel@heraldcorp.com)