ASTANA (Yonhap) ― South Korean President Park Geun-hye and her Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev agreed Thursday to work closely together to realize major energy and power projects currently underway between the two countries.
The joint projects worth a total of $10 billion were a key focus of the two leaders’ summit talks in Astana, which came on the fourth day of Park’s six-day tour of Central Asia, officials said.
The South Korean leader arrived in Kazakhstan on Wednesday following a three-day state visit to Uzbekistan. After three days in Kazakhstan, Park is scheduled to fly to Turkmenistan on Friday for a two-day state visit.
Park and Nazarbayev agreed to strengthen bilateral cooperation to begin construction on a $4.9 billion coal-fired power plant in the southern Kazakh city of Balkhash, about 680 kilometers south of the capital Astana, according to officials.
|President Park Geun-hye speaks at a joint press conference held at the presidential palace in Astana, capital of Kazakhstan, Thursday. Next to Park is her Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev. (Yonhap)|
As part of that agreement, the two sides signed a contract under which South Korea would buy $18.8 billion worth of electricity from the plant once it goes into operation.
The deal is expected to help finance the project and help launch the plant’s construction in the second half of the year.
During the summit, Park also requested the Kazakh government’s support to begin construction on a petrochemical complex in Atyrau on the northern banks of the Caspian Sea, officials said.
The two countries have yet to agree on the financial arrangements for the $5 billion project.
South Korea and Kazakhstan are also working on a project to drill oil from the Zhambyl field in the Caspian Sea.
An initial study put the field’s reserves at 100 million barrels, but the two sides have yet to determine the project’s economic feasibility.
Park asked Nazarbayev for his continued support in ensuring smooth operations in the exploration of the field, with the aim of beginning actual drilling, officials said.
Kazakhstan is the largest destination of South Korean investment in the region, with more than 250 South Korean firms operating here. Last year, two-way trade reached a record $1.32 billion, according to official data.
During the summit, the two leaders also agreed to work toward new joint projects in the energy and resources sector, officials said.
South Korea is seeking participation in a $3.5 billion project to build more oil refineries for the Tengiz oil field on the shores of the Caspian Sea.
Asia’s fourth-largest economy is also taking part in the joint exploration of a lead and zinc mine in Karagandy Province, central Kazakhstan, with the aim of winning the right to exploit the mine later this year.
Park and Nazarbayev also agreed to expand bilateral cooperation to new areas such as health, forestry and infrastructure construction as part of efforts to promote their countries’ mutual growth and contribute to Kazakhstan’s industrial diversification, officials said.