The Republic of Kazakhstan Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Republic of Korea Darkhan Berdaliyev answers questions from the Kazakhstan magazine.
Darkhan Aliyevich, how do you assess the current level of the Kazakhstan-Korean bilateral relations?
Kazakhstan pays much attention to the development of a comprehensive and mutually beneficial partnership with the Republic of Korea. Our countries render mutual support to international initiatives and carry on a regular dialogue at all levels, including through participation in multilateral forums.
On May 12–14, 2009 the President of the Republic of Korea, Lee Myung-bak, paid a state visit to Astana. In the course of his visit, a joint interstate statement was made that brings the bilateral relations to the level of strategic partnership and a set of documents was signed, including The Program of Action on Intensifying Cooperation between the two countries. The President of South Korea took part in a business-forum, following which documents in the area of power engineering, transport, construction, and telecommunication technologies were signed.
In the framework of the given visit, Lee Myung-bak was awarded the highest state decoration of Kazakhstan – the Altyn Kyran decoration, while Nursultan Nazarbayev was awarded Korea’s highest Order of Merit, the Mugunhwa order.
In his turn, on April 21–23, 2010 Nursultan Nazarbayev paid a state visit to South Korea. The Head of Kazakhstan carried on negotiations with Korea’s President Lee Myung-bak, Prime Minister Chung Un-chan, and heads of a number of South Korean companies. He took part in a ceremony of opening the Year of Kazakhstan in the Republic of Korea and in a Korean-Kazakhstan business forum.
These highest level visits gave a necessary impetus to the development of bilateral relations in all fields of cooperation. Now the matter stands with the relevant agencies and business circles of the two countries.
In my turn, on behalf of the Republic of Kazakhstan Embassy to the Republic of Korea, I make every effort to add to the development of not only political, trade & economic, investment and cultural and humanitarian relations between the two countries, but interregional cooperation as well.
Could you share with us the results of last year’s Year of Kazakhstan in the Republic of Korea? What events in the economic and cultural areas were held by the Embassy in 2010?
In the first place, I would like to mention a business forum that took place in April 2010 in the framework of the President of Kazakhstan’s visit to Seoul. As a result, the parties entered into 23 agreements. The reached arrangements on interaction in the oil & gas sector, petrochemical industry, mechanical engineering sector, nuclear power engineering, uranium production, grain exports by Kazakhstan, construction sector, manufacturing of buses and trucks by Hyundai and of off-road vehicles by Ssang Yong are of special importance.
Within the period of October 11 through October 13, by order of the President of Kazakhstan, the Kazakhstan Embassy arranged a visit to the Republic of Kazakhstan for the Republic of Korea’s Minister of Knowledge Economy Choi Kyung Hwan. In the framework of the visit, a business forum was held in which businessmen from the two countries, including 85 representatives of Kazakhstani companies, such as NWF Samruk-Kazyna, Kazakhtelecom, NAC Kazatomprom, National Innovation Fund, National Infocommunication Holding Company Zerde, took part. The Korean delegation involved the heads of the largest companies, such as Samsung C&T Corporation, Korea Resources Corporation, Korea National Oil Corporation, Korea Electric Power Corporation, LG International Corp., and Hyundai Corporation.
On November 15–19 a delegation from the Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Communication and Information jointly with representatives of Kazakhstan’s President Administration, Prime Minister’s Office, JSC National Information Technologies, and National Infocommunication Holding Company Zerde JSC visited South Korea. The Kazakhstan delegation had meetings with the heads of Korea’s National Information Society Agency, Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI), Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (КAIST), Korean Technopark Association, Korean Smart Home Association, Korean Internet and Security Agency, Sk Telecom Company, and other. The topics under discussions were the development of electronic government, information technologies, security of documents circulation and communication, infrastructure of “smart home” and “open keys”, and South Korea’s experience in the said areas.
Finally, from November 29 through December 6 under the small and medium entrepreneurship strategic development project, aimed at the sustainable economic development of Kazakhstan, and under the knowledge exchange program, launched by the Republic of Korea’s Ministry of Strategy and Finance, a delegation from Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Economic Development and Trade paid a visit to South Korea.
During the visit the parties discussed the experience of small and medium business development in South Korea. The issues involved also the government support of this field, interrelations between SMB and large companies, raising professional skills of employees, and possible ways for SMB development in Kazakhstan. Our delegation also familiarized with the role of small and medium business in the South Korean economy and SMB control system.
In the framework of the Year of Kazakhstan attention was focused also on cultural cooperation. In particular, in the last year the Days of Culture of Almaty were held in the city of Taegu, the Day of Culture of Mangistau region in Seoul, and The Days of Culture of the Almaty region in the city of Suwon in Gyeonggi Province. The closing of the Year of Kazakhstan in the Republic of Korea took part in December. In the framework of this event the Days of the Kazakhstan cinema and a concert of the Abai Kazakh State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre were held in December.
How much, in your opinion, has the interest of the Korean businessmen to Kazakhstan increased? What sectors of Kazakhstan’s economy are the most attractive to them?
Based on the 2010 year’s results, the commodity turnover between Kazakhstan and South Korea reached more than $760 million; of this amount, $232.8 million were exports and $527.3 million imports.
So the commodity turnover increased by 50.3%, compared to 2009. I would explain such a positive result, first of all, by the successful recovery of the economies of the two countries, and then by the increasing mutual interest of the business circles to cooperation.
Today, the main items of Kazakhstan exports to Korea are raw commodities – uranium, ferroalloys, carbon steel roll, metal roll, gold, and copper. Electronics, equipment and other mechanical engineering products prevail in the imports structure.
I would call power engineering the most attractive sector of Kazakhstan’s economy. More than 330 joint ventures with the participation of Korean capital operate in our country, including the subdivisions of Samsung, LG Electronics and LG International, also SK Corp., the Hyundai Motor Company, NTC, Ritex, and the construction firms Dongil Highvill, Yurim, SungWon, and Hanjin. Also, the Korean banks (Kookmin Bank, Shinhan Bank, and Woori Bank) and the securities companies (Hanwha Securities, HyundaiSecurities, Daewoo Capital, and other) actively operate in Kazakhstan.
Could you name examples of counter activity? Are there any joint ventures with the participation of Kazakhstani investors in the Republic of Korea?
There are a large number of joint Kazakhstan-Korean projects, but all of them are being implemented currently in Kazakhstan. According to data of the National Bank of the Republic of Kazakhstan, for the period of from 1993 through the third quarter of 2010, the gross direct investments inflow from Korea to Kazakhstan had reached $3.69 billion. The investments by the Kazakhstani side to Korea are about $70 million.
You have a perfect chance to observe very closely one of the most competitive economies in the world. What peculiarity of it would you distinguish?
It’s true; during my service on this post I had this opportunity to familiarize closer with the Korean economy. Moreover, this is my second appointment as the Republic of Kazakhstan Ambassador to this country (I was the Kazakhstan Ambassador to the Republic of Korea in 2003–2006).
In my opinion, I would call an environment protection initiative – the Green Growth program – exemplary for all other countries in the world. The Republic of Korea as an industrially urbanized country pays special attention to the given issue. In June 2010 the President Lee Myung-bak officially announced the setting up of the Green Growth International Institution which engages in the climate change issues and propaganda of an idea of economic growth without damage to the environment.
The strategy, aimed at implementation of the Green Growth program, can give a new impetus to increasing national competitiveness. Meanwhile, the developed countries which have already achieved economic advance, are concentrating their efforts on the ecology. The idea of setting up this institution was already given international support. In particular, besides the South Korean government, such countries as Germany, Japan, Norway and the United Arab Emirates are planning to provide financial support of the institution’s activities.
I would like to emphasize that the Environmental Protection Ministry of the Republic of Korea informed about its plans to introduce “green credits” in 2011 and to transfer to the use of vehicles with a low level of carbon exhaust. The system of “green credits” provides for the accumulation of scores for the use of public transport or purchase of goods that meet the Green Growth requirements. Further on, these scores can be used as cash. Also, the plans are to take measures to distribute cars with a low carbon exhaust (less than 100g per 1km). Under this project, the government will provide financial support to the population in their purchase of the environmental friendly cars.
In conclusion, what future do you see for the Kazakhstan-Korean cooperation?
For Kazakhstan, the intensifying of the strategic partnership with the Republic of Korea is of priority importance, since this country is becoming a major partner of Kazakhstan in this region. Korea and Kazakhstan have great potential for successful interaction, both in the bilateral and multilateral formats. For this, all necessary prerequisites are available. Based on the 2010 year results, both of the countries successfully overcame the economic recession and considerably strengthened their positions in international economic relations.
We hope that the Korean companies will be more actively participating in the development of the Kazakhstan economy. This all is expected not only in the power engineering projects. We expect also that they will bring new technologies and investments into the telecommunication sector, nuclear power industry, petrochemical sector, construction, and other subsectors of the processing industry.