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Yoon set to meet Uzbek leader

June 13, 2024 - 11:34 By Son Ji-hyoung
President Yoon Suk Yeol (left) and first lady Kim Keon Hee disembark from the Air Force One as they arrived at Tashkent, Uzbekistan on Thursday for a state visit. (Yonhap)

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan -- President Yoon Suk Yeol is set to meet Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev Friday in the final leg of his Central Asia trip.

Yoon last met Mirziyoyev in September last year on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in the United States.

Yoon is expected to work to ensure the stable supply of critical minerals from Uzbekistan, open ways for South Korean construction firms to join more Uzbek projects, and boost bilateral cooperation in the fields of health care, climate change, education and public administration services, according to Yoon's office.

Every South Korean President has visited Uzbekistan since late former President Roh Moo-hyun in 2005.

Departing from Astana, Kazakhstan on Thursday, Yoon arrived at Tashkent, Uzbekistan's capital city, for a state visit. Uzbekistan is one of the four states in the world with which South Korea established a Special Strategic Partnership along with India, Indonesia and the United Arab Emirates.

Later Thursday, Yoon attended a flower-laying ceremony at the Independence Square of Uzbekistan.

Following the ceremony, Yoon met with young business leaders at the "U-Enter" Entrepreneurship Innovation Center, which opened last year with the backing of the state-run Korea International Cooperation Agency.

He also met with overseas Koreans there and ethnic Koreans who resettled in the 1930s from the Soviet Union's Far East region, called Koryoin. An estimated 170,000 Koryoin live in Uzbekistan, according to the government figure.

President Yoon Suk Yeol (third from right) and first lady Kim Keon Hee (left) visit the Independence Square of Uzbekistan in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, on Thursday. (Yonhap)

The two countries established diplomatic ties in 1992, a year after Uzbekistan declared independence from the Soviet Union.

Trade volume between South Korea and Uzbekistan came to $2.45 billion as of 2023, hitting an all-time high and making South Korea become Uzbekistan's fifth-largest trading partner. Some 30,000 Uzbekistan citizens are estimated to study the Korean language.

South Korea and Uzbekistan elevated their diplomatic ties to a special strategic partnership in 2019 from the strategic partnership they formed in 2006.

Yoon is to depart from Uzbekistan on Saturday to return to Seoul, after visiting Samarkand, which is among the oldest cities in Central Asia.

The presidential visits to three Central Asian countries seek support for Seoul's proposed hosting of a multilateral summit in 2025, as well as its K-Silk Road initiative to stimulate minerals cooperation, increase development aid in the region and spur people-to-people exchange. Yoon has been on the trip since Monday.