Uzbek President to visit Seoul in September
By Kim Se-jeong
President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan will visit Korea in September, for a summit with President Lee Myung-bak. They will discuss issues of mutual concern, according to visiting Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov, Friday.
It will be Karimov’s seventh visit to Korea, an indication of strong Korea-Uzbekistan relations, which still have a lot of potential, he said.
Uzbek foreign minister, who was in Korea this week in preparation for the President’s visit said, “Uzbekistan has a particular interest in learning Korea’s knowhow in nurturing small- and medium-sized businesses,” and invited Korea’s entrepreneurs to an investment seminar scheduled for mid-September in Uzbekistan.
The minister led a delegation to the Korea-Central Asia Cooperation Forum which opened Thursday. He also had meetings with Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan Wednesday and Trade Minister Bark Tae-ho, Friday.
His visit is part of the Uzbek government’s commitment to transitioning to a market-based economy from one under the heavy influence of the former Soviet Union.
Agriculture, industry and construction are the main pillars of the country’s economy. Trade and investment activities with other nation’s are on the rise as well. Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan are strong trade partners, followed by Turkey, China, Iran and Korea.
Trade volume with Korea exceeded $1.7 billion while the size of investment from Korea to Uzbekistan reached $10 billion.
One of the major investment projects is the construction of the Ustyurt Gas-Chemical Complex. The so-called Surgil Project at a cost of $4-billion is expected to manufacture polyethylene and polypropylene generating over $1.6 billion in revenue annually.
“We expect this complex will create new business opportunities with neighboring countries,” he said.
Korean Air is managing the International Logistics Center at the Airport of Navoi, a city designated as a free industrial economic zone. In 2011 alone, more than 50,000 tons of cargo were shipped through the airport.
The minister hoped Uzbekistan’s abundant natural resources and cotton will create new opportunities for Korean investors.
Cotton used to be a leading cash earner for the country but lost its luster after independence 21 years ago. Uzbekistan is a major producer of gold and has significant copper, gas and oil deposits.
Karimov’s trip is a return visit following Lee’s trip to Uzbekistan in November last year.
During that visit a temporary working visa program allowing Uzbek nationals to work in Korea was signed. Having gone into effect in February, the minister said the program is getting a very good reception and added, “We are working hard to maintain it.”
An important element in Uzbekistan-Korea relations is the approximately 200,000 ethnic Koreans, who the minister says connect the two countries. They are mostly descendents of Koreans who were forced to move from Russia’s Far East in the early 20th century.
Khafizovich became the foreign minister in January this year, after spending two years as first deputy foreign minister. Prior to that, he was an ambassador to the United States where he spent seven years between 2003 and 2010. He was also posted in Brazil and Canada.