Park arrives in Kazakhstan to boost economic ties

By 석지현
  • Published : Jun 18, 2014 - 21:40
  • Updated : Jun 18, 2014 - 21:40

South Korean President Park Geun-hye arrived in Kazakhstan on Wednesday on the second leg of a Central Asia tour focused mainly on expanding economic ties and realizing her vision for a barrier-free Eurasia.

During Park's three-day state visit to Astana, the two countries are expected to pledge continued support for their ongoing joint projects worth a total of US$10 billion, including the construction of a coal-fired power plant and a petrochemical complex, officials said.

Kazakhstan is the largest destination of South Korean investment in the region, with more than 250 South Korean firms operating there, according to officials.

On Thursday, Park is scheduled to hold summit talks with her Kazakh counterpart, Nursultan Nazarbayev.

The meeting will come 10 months after the two leaders met on the sidelines of a summit of the Group of 20 major economies in St. Petersburg, Russia -- an indication of the two nations' close and friendly ties, officials said.

The two leaders are expected to discuss Park's “Eurasia initiative," which calls for building more infrastructure and freeing up trade between Eurasian nations to create what could become a large single market rivaling the European Union.

During Park's visit, the two sides will also sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on rail cooperation.  

The MOU calls for South Korean participation in the modernization of Kazakhstan's railways, which is expected to provide a basis for Park's vision for a "Silk Road Express" that connects South Korea to Europe via North Korea, Russia and China.

The two countries will also sign a mutual agreement that allows nationals from one side to visit the other country for 30 days without a visa.

Park's visit could also serve to highlight the economic success Kazakhstan achieved after abandoning its nuclear programs.

Kazakhstan's per capita income exceeds $13,000, the highest among Central Asian nations, setting an example for North Korea to follow.