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Korea, Uzbekistan bolster energy, infrastructure ties

The leaders of South Korea and Uzbekistan on Thursday agreed to upgrade their partnership to bolster cooperation in fields including energy and infrastructure projects, as well as information technology and health care.

During a summit at Cheong Wa Dae, President Park Geun-hye and Uzbek President Islam Karimov agreed to support joint ventures between businesses from the two countries on oil, gas, petrochemicals and solar energy and to expand cooperation in launching medical centers in the central Asian country.

Karimov expressed keen interest in Park’s signature creative economy drive, calling it a successful development tool devised to deal with the slowing global economy and growing regional tension.

He also vowed to support South Korea’s vision of peaceful unification and to join the regional efforts to resolve North Korea‘s nuclear threats. 

President Park Geun-hye shakes hands with visiting Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov during their meeting at Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on Thursday. (Yonhap)
President Park Geun-hye shakes hands with visiting Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov during their meeting at Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on Thursday. (Yonhap)

Under the agreement, the two sides planned to encourage business projects that link Korean firms’ technological know-how and capital with Uzbekistan’s rich natural resources. Tashkent said it was ready to create a favorable business environment for Korean companies.

“The two sides agreed to collaborate on large-scale projects in Uzbekistan to introduce advanced technology and attract direct investment from South Korean firms,” according to a joint statement issued after the summit.

Cheong Wa Dae said the agreement between the two sides would help Asia’s fourth-largest economy create a new growth engine and also strengthen bilateral ties to promote its initiative aimed at linking railways between Asia and Europe. President Park has been calling for international support in her vision of linking roads and railways across the continent to connect South Korea directly to Europe, through North Korea, Russia and China.

The two leaders also observed the signing of memorandums of understanding on issues including technological development, information technology and security.

In particular, the two sides agreed to equally recognize driver’s licenses issued in both countries, allowing Korean and Uzbek travelers or residents to drive vehicles without having to go through additional tests.

Koreans in Uzbekistan, however, will be required to carry their licenses along with a translated version of the Korean identification. The Uzbek government also agreed to exempt social security fees for members of Korean firms doing business in Uzbekhistan.

The summit was held on the first day of the Uzbek president’s three-day visit in Seoul, his first overseas destination since he was reelected in March, Cheong Wa Dae officials said. The president’s move shows his commitment to promoting friendly ties with South Korea, they added.

Karimov has visited South Korea seven times since 1991.

Park first met her Uzbek counterpart last year, as part of her trip to Central Asia.

Uzbekistan is South Korea’s largest trading partner in Central Asia. The country with a population of 30 million is the largest market in the region. Last year, the two-way trade stood at $1.9 billion.

By Cho Chung-un (