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[Herald Interview] Kazakh deputy minister hopes to boost economic diplomacy with Korea

By Sanjay Kumar

Published : June 11, 2024 - 13:16

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Kazakhstan’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nazira Nurbayeva speaks in an interview with The Korea Herald at Mondrian Seoul Itaewon in Yongsan-gu, Seoul. (Sanjay Kumar/The Korea Herald) Kazakhstan’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nazira Nurbayeva speaks in an interview with The Korea Herald at Mondrian Seoul Itaewon in Yongsan-gu, Seoul. (Sanjay Kumar/The Korea Herald)

Nazira Nurbayeva, Kazakhstan’s deputy minister of foreign affairs, expressed a strong commitment to boosting economic diplomacy with South Korea to shape future potential and mutual benefits.

The term refers to promoting a state's economic interests through the use of economic tools in trade and investment, leveraging a comparative advantage to achieve specific foreign policy objectives.

"Kazakhstan has resources, low production costs and affordable utilities, while Korea brings technology and expertise."

"Our cooperation is natural," she told The Korea Herald in an interview, citing South Korea as one of the few countries in Asia with which Kazakhstan has enhanced strategic partnership agreements.

Kazakhstan and Korea established diplomatic relations in 1992, with embassies opening in 1993 and 1996. The two countries signed a strategic cooperation agreement in 2009.

Kazakhstan also opened a consulate general in Busan in 2022, and signed a bilateral bilateral Trade and Investment Promotion Framework (TIPF) in 2023 during Trade Minister Ahn Duk-geun's visit to Kazakhstan.

Bilateral trade flow hit $6 billion in 2023, meaning South Korea is Kazakhstan's fourth-largest trade partner. South Korea was also the fifth-largest investor to Kazakhstan with $1.2 billion in direct investments in the same year, according to Nurbayeva.

Kazakhstan’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nazira Nurbayeva speaks in an interview with The Korea Herald at Mondrian Seoul Itaewon in Yongsan-gu, Seoul. (Sanjay Kumar/The Korea Herald) Kazakhstan’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nazira Nurbayeva speaks in an interview with The Korea Herald at Mondrian Seoul Itaewon in Yongsan-gu, Seoul. (Sanjay Kumar/The Korea Herald)

The deputy minister visited Seoul to inform Korean investors and businesses about Kazakhstan's new reforms, where she met with officials from Samsung Electronics, Doosan Energy, SK and LS, among others.

"We aim to increase our GDP by enhancing in-country value creation," Nurbayeva said, stressing the need to leverage Korea's technological expertise for projects of value-added production and economic diversification.

"Korean companies can gain access to resources and benefit from low production costs while accessing new markets through our strategic location in Eurasia," she noted.

High-level meetings, such as one between leaders of the two countries at the UN General Assembly in 2023, have further strengthened bilateral ties, Nurbayeva said.

According to Nurbayeva, boosting Kazakh-Korean economic ties can diversify Central Asia’s economy.

"By expanding beyond traditional partners, Central Asian countries can reduce their dependence on any single country or region, enhancing geopolitical autonomy and resilience," she said, urging joint infrastructure projects for transportation networks and energy pipelines as key to promoting regional cooperation and stability.

When asked about what Kazakhstan has been doing to address concerns about industrial and technological supply chains and the geopolitical implications for countries like South Korea, Nurbayeva shared Kazakhstan's efforts to reform its mining sector and attract foreign investment.

"We have introduced transparent procedures and digitalized geological data to make it easier for investors to participate in the mining sector," she said.

Kazakhstan recently auctioned 25 mining fields, with more to come, and Nurbayeva encouraged Korean investors to participate.

Kazakhstan’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nazira Nurbayeva speaks in an interview with The Korea Herald at Mondrian Seoul Itaewon in Yongsan-gu, Seoul. (Sanjay Kumar/The Korea Herald) Kazakhstan’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nazira Nurbayeva speaks in an interview with The Korea Herald at Mondrian Seoul Itaewon in Yongsan-gu, Seoul. (Sanjay Kumar/The Korea Herald)

Nurbayeva emphasized the country's commitment to peaceful dispute resolution and international partnership.

"We are a multiethnic, multicultural country that strongly believes in peace and negotiation," she said.

Meanwhile, Nurbayeva noted successful collaborations with companies like Hyundai Motor and Kia, which are expanding their operations in Kazakhstan. She called for more Korean companies to produce spare parts locally, offering government support through tax incentives and other measures.

Kazakhstan's ambition to become the financial gateway to Central Asia was another key point. Nurbayeva highlighted the Astana International Financial Center as a pivotal institution modeled after Dubai's financial center, providing a unique jurisdiction based on common law.

"With its international court and arbitration center, the AIFC offers unparalleled opportunities for business registration and operation," she said.

"Kazakhstan is striving to become the financial gateway to Central Asia and beyond."

President Yoon Suk Yeol began a six-day trip to Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan on Monday to introduce the "K-Silk Road" initiative, South Korea's new diplomatic strategy for Central Asia.

The initiative aims to strengthen supply chain cooperation with resource-rich Central Asian countries and is the Yoon administration's third regional strategy, following the Indo-Pacific Strategy and the Korea-ASEAN Solidarity Initiative.

Yoon is in Kazakhstan for a three-day visit to hold a summit with Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, aiming to deepen the bilateral strategic partnership.

Korean government wants to enhance cooperation with Central Asia to link Asia and Europe.