Since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1992 Uzbekistan-Korean cooperation has been steadily developing. The intensity of close collaboration can be manifested by the fact that over the past 23 years there have been fourteen summit meetings between the two heads of state. As a result the relations between Uzbekistan and the Republic of Korea within a short period of time have reached the level of Strategic Partnership that greatly contributed to furthering and strengthening multifaceted bilateral cooperation relations and elevated them to a new qualitative level. The Government of Uzbekistan is strongly committed to working closely with South Korea in advancing this strategic partnership and widening the horizons of comprehensive cooperation. In maintaining such collaboration a special importance plays regular dialogue between the leaders of the two countries that has become one of the hallmarks of Uzbek-Korean bilateral relations.
President Park Geun-hye paid a State visit to the Republic of Uzbekistan on June 16-18, 2014. During the summit with country’s President Islam Karimov a wide range of bilateral and regional issues have been thoroughly discussed. The two heads of state signed the “Joint Declaration between the Republic of Uzbekistan and the Republic of Korea on the further development and deepening of the strategic partnership” that defines perspectives of cooperation in political, trade-economic, investment, cultural-humanitarian areas as well as collaboration in the framework of international organizations.
On May 27-29, 2015, President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov at the invitation of President Park Geun-hye paid a reciprocal State Visit to the Republic of Korea. Two Presidents in an open, trusting and constructive atmosphere discussed issues pertaining to bilateral and multilateral cooperation. Both sides noted that the visit was a logical and natural continuation of regular contacts at the highest level and demonstrated the mutual political will to boost practical collaboration in all areas of cooperation, which meets the interests of both countries and their peoples.
The Korean side expressed its highest appreciation for the fact that President Islam Karimov after his re-election as Head of Uzbekistan in March this year has paid the first State Visit to the Republic of Korea. This highlights the scope and prospects for expanding multifaceted cooperation between the two countries, as well as the great importance which is being attached by Tashkent to further strengthening the relations of strategic partnership with Seoul.
Uzbekistan supports the peaceful, deeply thought-out and balanced foreign policy of the Republic of Korea aimed at maintaining peace and security on the Korean peninsula and in the whole region.
Given the high level of interdependence of all countries in the age of globalization, Uzbekistan recognizes the relevance of the “Eurasian initiative” launched by the South Korean leader and see it as an important contribution to the revival of the Ancient Silk Road. In this regard the two countries share the understanding about the need for mutual coordination of the currently implemented projects and successful promotion of international and sub-regional economic cooperation programs and development of transport and communication systems.
The two countries highly evaluate the bilateral inter-parliamentary relations, including those functioning through existing associations and friendship groups in legislative bodies. The Parliamentary Association of Friendship “Korea-Uzbekistan” in the National Assembly and a similar group of cooperation with Korea in the Legislative Chamber of the Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan play an important role in furthering inter-parliamentary collaboration and supporting the overall process of strengthening the bilateral relations. The key component of bilateral relations is the cooperation in economy, trade, investment and financial spheres. There are vast opportunities for cooperation in a wide range of industries, including mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, information and communication technology, textile, pharmaceuticals, building materials and many others.
One should note the steady growth of the trade turnover, which in recent years consistently exceed USD 2 billion, and Uzbekistan currently is the largest trading partner of the Republic of Korea in Central Asia.
In May this year on the eve of the State visit of Uzbekistan’s President to the Republic of Korea, Uzbek-Korean Business Forum was convened in Seoul and an unprecedented package of documents, totaling 60 agreements and contracts, has been signed. Fifty-five of the concluded documents were in the field of trade and economic, investment, and financial and technical cooperation.
Today Korea is among the most important investment partners of Uzbekistan. Over the past 10 years the total volume of the announced Korean investments into the economy of Uzbekistan exceeded $6 billion. Currently our countries have been cooperating in implementing a number of large scale investment projects that give great impetus to deepening cooperation in trade-economic, investment and energy sectors. Among them is the construction of the Ustyurt gas-chemical complex. This project worth $4 billion is carried out jointly with KOGAS, Lotte Chemical and STX Corporations. Its successful completion in 2015 will be another important landmark in bilateral investment cooperation.
Uzbekistan is one of the leading countries in the world in terms of reserves of precious, base and rare metals, uranium, natural gas and other fossil fuels. This serves as a solid basis for joint economic and investment collaboration. For example, the Korean National Oil Corporation currently is conducting geological exploration in Uzbekistan while other companies are involved in the development of other deposits. However, the two countries do not limit their cooperation only to exploration of natural resources. Intensive collaboration is underway in the manufacturing sector, including the automotive industry. At the present time more than 35 Korean companies are involved in manufacturing Uzbek cars. There are a myriad of opportunities for enhancing investment cooperation in mining, oil-gas, petrochemical, construction, automobile-manufacturing and textile industries as well as in agriculture sector and in the field of energy saving technologies. Today in Uzbekistan there are more than 400 enterprises with the Korean side participation. Logistics are another area of cooperation. The world largest air-cargo carrier Korean Air for the past six years has been managing an International Logistic Center at the Airport of Navoi that is located next to Navoi Free Industrial Economic Zone which creates exceptional conditions for developing economically viable production and swift delivery of manufactured products to global markets through an effective system of multimodal transportation networks.
Active bilateral cooperation in the field of education has been underway for a long time thanks to technical assistance of the Government of the Republic of Korea that is rendered through the Korean Agency for International Cooperation. As of today more than 1400 specialists of different ministries and agencies of Uzbekistan have undergone trainings in South Korea through KOICA’s programs.
Also, Uzbekistan and South Korea cooperate in ICT field in such directions as: development of e-government, development of software products and information systems, informatization of the regions, introduction of modern methods of business process reengineering and training courses in the field of ICT.
Based on this experience the E-Government System Development Center and the Information Security Center have been established, a Single Portal of Interactive Government Services has been launched, which nowadays provides 236 kinds of interactive services, also with direct participation of Korean experts a draft law of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On E-government” is being developed.
It should be noted that one of the leading IT-companies of the Republic of Korea agreed to establish a joint venture for the development of information systems and software products. As a result of negotiations with “LG CNS” company this year the Uzbek-Korean joint venture “LG CNS Uzbekistan” has been created, which by a special decision of the President of State has been granted a number of privileges and preferences for its successful activity.
Tashkent University of Information Technologies (TUIT), which is the basic educational institution of Uzbekistan in the field of ICT has partnership relations with more than 10 leading universities of South Korea, such as the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), Seoul National University (SNU), Seoul National University of Science and Technology (SeoulTech), Inha, Yeungnam, Kyung Hee, Chung Ang universities and others.
Another striking result of actively developing strategic partnership between our two countries is the establishment of Inha University in Tashkent.
In order to improve training of personnel in the field of information and communication technologies 13 employees of ICT field and education are currently undergoing training in the field of E-government and information technologies for a period of 6 months at the Central Officials Training Institute of the Republic of Korea (COTI).
The two countries also successfully cooperate in the cultural-humanitarian area. One of the concrete results of such collaboration is the creation in the capital of Uzbekistan, Tashkent, of the Seoul Park that has become another symbol of special relations between our countries. The Korean Diaspora in Uzbekistan traditionally plays an important role in strengthening friendly relations between the two countries. During President Park’s State visit to Uzbekistan last year a Memorandum of understanding on creation of the House of Korean Culture and Art in Uzbekistan was signed. Among main purposes of this House is the creation of favorable conditions for the preservation of cultural heritage, traditions and art of Uzbekistan’s Korean diaspora. Currently the two sides are closely working together to successfully implement this MOU. In general, since the establishment of diplomatic relations Seoul has been for Tashkent a time-tested and reliable, in all respect, strategic partner that renders coherent support in implementing in Uzbekistan important national programs of drastic reforms and modernization of its economy and social sphere. In this regard the both sides strive for further developing and strengthening mutually beneficial bilateral relations that serves the interest of the two countries and their peoples.