Ahead of the state visit to Astana by President Park Geun-hye of the Republic of Korea on June 18-19, we interviewed Kazakhstan’s Ambassador to Seoul Dulat Bakishev about what makes the relations between the two countries strong and what to expect in the future.
Most Kazakh people consider South Korea a highly technologically developed state. How do you see current cooperation between the two countries?
First of all, I would like to underline that today Kazakhstan and South Korea are strategic partners and they are actively moving towards deepening this partnership.
Kazakhstan and Korea have much in common. There are no political disagreements between Astana and Seoul. Korean leaders highly evaluate Kazakhstan’s achievements in political, social and economic spheres, support Kazakh initiatives in CICA, at the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions and actively participate in their development. The economies of both nations do not compete with each other but have complementary features. The mentalities of our nations, their customs, beliefs and even Kazakh and Korean languages are quite similar.
Annual summits show the highest level of friendship and strength of relationships between our countries. The state visit of President Park Geun-hye to Kazakhstan on June 18-19 is evidence of it. Agreements between our leaders identify high dynamics of our cooperation and its impressive achievements.
Kazakhstan and the Republic of Korea have joint long-term interests and mutual understanding of responsibility for international security and stability in Asia. In this context, strategic partnership with Seoul is considered as a necessary condition for the creation of really democratic and fair world order.
Our countries actively interact on the international arena; on many vital global issues Astana and Seoul have similar positions, including nuclear security and non-proliferation regime. South Korea entirely supports the peaceful initiatives of Kazakhstan and its leader. It is proved by the speech President Park Geun-hye delivered to the members of the National Assembly of Korea, which appealed to North Korea to follow Kazakhstan’s example, “which has renounced one of the world’s largest nuclear arsenal and taken a path towards successful economic development.”
What do you think attracts South Korea in Kazakhstan, and how “the Country of the Morning Calm” can interest our state?
The geopolitical location of Kazakhstan, its stable political system, dynamic economic development, rich natural resources, integrational processes (Eurasian Economic Union, Customs Union, Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, Collective Security Treaty Organisation, Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia, Etc.), transportation transit potential of our country as well as large Korean ethnic diaspora determine a higher interest of the Republic of Korea in closer cooperation with Kazakhstan as a key partner in Central Asia and the world in general.
Kazakhstan in turn has its own interests in the Asian-Pacific region and in Asia generally and finds it important to develop a strong partnership with Korea, one of the leading countries in the region. The rise of the global role of Seoul in the 21st century, its geopolitical location and involvement in one of the main issues of international agenda (North Korean problem) makes this country one of the key players in East Asia.
Certainly trade and economic interaction between Kazakhstan and Korea is very intensive. What do you think businessmen of both countries should expect in the nearest future?
During the recovery of the economy after the world crisis it is very important for our states to intensively promote joint projects. Fortunately Kazakhstan and Korea have all the necessary elements for that.
Today, both parties are already developing a range of multibillion projects like construction of the Balkhash thermal power plant and of a chemical complex in the Atyrau region, the development of the Zhambyl field and others. All these are vivid examples of our close cooperation with South Korean partners. The investments came to Kazakhstan along with new technologies and modern production management.
Today, there are more than 700 Kazakhstan-Korean joint ventures and I believe this number will increase further, taking into consideration new opportunities for business opened up with the treaty on the creation of the Eurasian Economic Union signed this May by the presidents of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia.
Economic integration always had a positive impact on the development of entrepreneurship and Korean companies clearly understand that. They are now making business in Kazakhstan, which has a very beneficial tax system and comfortable conditions for running business, and will open them to a far bigger market of the world’s sixth GDP and 172 million consumers.
Moreover, within the implementation of the principles of the Kazakhstan 2050 strategy on stimulating exports of domestic products to foreign markets, our government is taking a range of effective actions. At this point, the signing of the memorandum on cooperation between KazNexInvest JSC and the Korean Importers Association during President Park’s upcoming visit is very symbolic.
In the future, besides joint projects in Kazakhstan and Korea, it seems like private sectors of both countries will actively develop other markets. Today, there are all prerequisites and opportunities for that.
What kind of practical support is given by the governments of Kazakhstan and South Korea for the development of business contacts between private sectors?
First of all, it is necessary to underline that today, particularly in Kazakhstan, all possible favourable conditions have been created for running business and foreign investors. These are simplification of tax legislation, optimisation of licensing procedures, specialised programmes for separate sectors which have been adopted and many others.
In South Korea as well, everything is being made for the convenience of entrepreneurship, including foreign business. Governmental programmes directed to promote global-leading Korea also widely assist it.
Currently, there are a range of regular interaction mechanisms between Kazakhstan and Korea which help both parties develop certain direction of our cooperation. First is the intergovernmental commission on trade and investment and scientific and technological cooperation, which recently held its seventh session. Participants discussed a wide range of bilateral cooperation issues.
As it is well known, the concept of foreign policy of our country particularly emphasises interaction with the Republic of Korea in attraction of new technologies. Here it is necessary to point out the activity of the Kazakh-Korean centre for technological cooperation, which has its Korean branch located in Astana, and the Kazakh branch located in Taejon, the technological capital of Korea.
Moreover, there are similar successfully-functioning mechanisms of cooperation in energy and culture: the committee on cooperation in energy and natural resources and the commission on cultural cooperation. I would like to underline the activity of the business council, which holds several sessions per year. Also there are separate actions on different levels beingheld constantly. One of them is the business forum during President Park’s visit on June 18-20. Besides this, parties quite often exchange mutual visits of sectoral delegations from different authorities and organisations.
In general, all these mechanisms are urged to support development of cooperation between our countries in all directions. It is notable that this list is not complete; today we are talking about five and tomorrow this number could increase twice. This means that our cooperation is at a very close level.
What would you wish for the people of two countries?
One of the distinctive features of the relationship between our countries is the presence of strong cultural and human ties. Our relations in this sphere have reached the higher scale. The significance of Korean diaspora, which plays the role of an original bridge between our nations especially in cultural and humanitarian spheres, is very important.
I would like to emphasise that cultural ties, communication of both nations and mutual experience of customs and traditions are the features that provide genuine close cooperation of the states. Highest officials, governmental structures, diplomats and state bodies make their best endeavours for a closer approach of our countries. However, without the support of the population and ordinary people these efforts can lose their meaning, preventing the creation of a decent life and welfare of our nations.
In a modern and speedily-globalising world it is extremely important to move forward along with friends, together with reliable partners, one of which for Kazakhstan is South Korea.
I wish the people of our countries peace, prosperity and inexhaustible energy in strengthening friendship between our countries.