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Korea, Kazakhstan agree to boost ties in Seoul summit

Kazakh president becomes first foreign leader to visit Seoul since pandemic began

Presidents Moon Jae-in and Kassym-Jomart Tokayev take a walk after their summit talks at Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on Tuesday. (Cheong Wa Dae)
Presidents Moon Jae-in and Kassym-Jomart Tokayev take a walk after their summit talks at Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on Tuesday. (Cheong Wa Dae)
President Moon Jae-in and visiting President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev of Kazakhstan on Tuesday held summit talks and pledged to further expand the strategic partnership between the countries.

The Kazakh president arrived in Seoul on Monday for a two-day state visit, becoming the first foreign leader to visit the country since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is also a return visit for Moon’s visit to the Kazakh capital of Nur-Sultan in 2019.

“This is the first state visit since the pandemic began. Your visit shows the special friendship between the two nations,” Moon said during the summit that lasted for about an hour earlier in the day.

The president again expressed gratitude to the Kazakh people for Sunday’s return of the remains of Gen. Hong Beom-do, a legendary independence fighter who led major battles against Imperial Japan. Hong died in Kazakhstan in 1943.

The Kazakh president, in response, said that he also understands the symbolic meaning of Hong’s return for Koreans and hopes this could be an opportunity for the two nations to bolster bilateral ties.

He especially pinned high hopes on economic cooperation, calling Korea one of the most important partners for Kazakhstan.

Kazakhstan is now Korea’s largest trading partner in Central Asia. Trade volume between the two countries almost tripled from $1.5 billion in 2017 to $4.2 billion won in 2019. Due to the pandemic, the figure suffered a fall to $3.08 billion last year.

“Some 550 Korean companies are doing business in Kazakhstan and the two nations are working closely through a joint economic committee,” the Kazakh president said. “The two nations can build the best cooperation model.”

Moon echoed the view, saying, “We can explore mutually beneficial growth by seeking synergy between Korea’s New Deal policy and Kazakhstan’s 2025 national development plan.”
President Moon Jae-in greets President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev upon his arrival for a summit at Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on Tuesday. (Cheong Wa Dae)
President Moon Jae-in greets President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev upon his arrival for a summit at Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on Tuesday. (Cheong Wa Dae)
During the summit, the two leaders reviewed the progress in an economic cooperation program called “Fresh Wind,” which was launched in 2019 upon their first summit. While the existing program focuses on information and communication technology, transportation and infrastructure, they agreed to further expand the program to include new high-tech areas such as the “fourth industrial revolution,” health care and the space industry. 

The Kazakh president also expressed hope to learn from Korea’s achievements on health care, including its COVID-19 response, calling the field one of the potential areas where the two nations can further up cooperation. 

The summit also touched on a slew of issues ranging from climate change to Korea’s peace efforts on the Korean Peninsula. 

As for the stalled talks with North Korea, the Kazakh president added that his country’s own denuclearization experience may offer some useful tips. 

In its first decade of independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Kazakhstan dismantled about 1,400 nuclear warheads and other weapons systems and facilities. 

Celebrating their 30th anniversary of diplomatic ties next year, they also pledged to carry out diverse projects aimed at accelerating cultural and human exchanges between the two nations. 

Following the summit, the two leaders adopted a joint statement that contains a wide range of commitments on their bilateral ties, the meaning of the return of Hong’s remains, the Korean Peninsula peace process and the partnership between Korea and Central Asia. 

Later in the day, the two leaders were set to attend a meeting with business leaders here, which would be followed by a dinner banquet at Cheong Wa Dae. The Kazakh president planned to fly back later in the evening.

By Lee Ji-yoon (jylee@heraldcorp.com)
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