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[Contribution] Uzbekistan-Republic of Korea: commitment to centuries-old ties, special strategic partnership

June 13, 2024 - 14:35 By Korea Herald
Presidents of Uzbekistan (left) and South Korea shake hands during their meeting to discuss the preparation of a new economic agenda for strategic partnership, on Sept. 19, 2023, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session in New York. (Uzbekistan Embassy in Seoul)

By the Uzbekistan Embassy in Seoul

President of the Republic of Korea Yoon Suk Yeol will pay a state visit to Uzbekistan at the invitation of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev on June 13-15, 2024.

Established on Jan. 29, 1992, Uzbek-South Korean relations have become an example of successful cooperation between the two countries in various fields. In more than thirty years of interaction, the relations have developed and strengthened, passing through several key milestones. In 2006, the Joint Declaration on Strategic Partnership was signed, and in 2019 the relationship was elevated to a special strategic partnership.

These phases reflect deep historical ties and are characterized by highly dynamic mutual exchanges. Regular exchanges of high-level visits emphasize the importance of Uzbek-South Korean relations for both sides. The heads of state meet to discuss issues of bilateral cooperation and global challenges. These meetings contribute to deepening mutual understanding and expanding interaction in various areas, and are accompanied by the signing of important agreements and memorandums of cooperation.

Inter-parliamentary ties are an important element of Uzbek-South Korean relations. Parliamentarians of both countries hold meetings and exchanges of delegations on a systematic basis, which makes it possible to develop the legislative base of bilateral cooperation and strengthen friendly ties between the peoples. Parliamentary friendship groups play a key role in this process, sharing experiences and best practices.

Uzbekistan and South Korea actively interact within the framework of international organizations and formats. Such cooperation allows the countries to coordinate efforts in addressing global and regional issues, strengthen their positions in the international arena and jointly promote initiatives aimed at ensuring stability and sustainable development.

Thus, within the framework of cooperation in the international arena, Seoul supported and co-sponsored resolutions adopted at the initiative of Uzbekistan by the UN General Assembly: "Strengthening regional and international cooperation to ensure peace, stability and sustainable development in the Central Asian region" and "Education and religious tolerance" (2018), ‘"Sustainable tourism and sustainable development in Central Asia’ (2019), ‘On strengthening the role of parliaments in accelerating the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals" (2022).

The South Korean side supported Uzbekistan's candidacy to the UN Human Rights Council for 2021-2023, as well as Samarkand's candidacy to host the 25th session of the General Assembly of the World Tourism Organization in 2023. And there are many such examples.

Economic cooperation between Uzbekistan and South Korea shows significant progress. In 2023, trade turnover between the two countries exceeded $2.3 billion, which indicates a high level of mutual interest. South Korean companies are actively investing in the Uzbek economy, participating in the implementation of projects in such sectors as energy, construction, chemical, textile and others. Today, more than 700 enterprises with South Korean capital are operating in Uzbekistan.

An important step in the history of bilateral economic ties was the opening of the first Trade House of Uzbekistan in Seoul in March 2024. It will undoubtedly become a platform to promote Uzbek goods and services in the South Korean market, as well as to establish business contacts between entrepreneurs of the two countries and increase exports to South Korea, thus contributing to the strengthening of economic ties.

In partnership with South Korea, Uzbekistan has established a joint educational and practical textile technopark, the Scientific and Technological Centre for Rare Metals and Alloys, the Design and Technological Centre for Agricultural Machinery, and the Uzbek-Korean Centre for Cooperation in Electronic Government.

The South Korean side also assisted in launching the National E-Commerce Platform.

Investment interaction is also at a high level. In general, the volume of direct South Korean investments attracted into Uzbekistan's economy exceeded $7.5 billion.

South Korea also provides financial and technical assistance to Uzbekistan. Thus, within the framework of cooperation with the Exim Bank of the Republic of Korea, 17 projects worth $2.6 billion have been jointly implemented since 1999.

In December 2020, the Government of the Republic of Korea signed an administrative agreement to contribute $1 million in financial assistance to the UN Multi-partner Trust Fund for the Aral Sea region.

Cultural and humanitarian cooperation between Uzbekistan and South Korea has deep roots, the similarity of traditions and culture of our people contribute to this in many ways.

Cooperation in education and science is also a significant aspect of Uzbek-South Korean relations. Uzbekistan's universities maintain cooperation with more than 45 universities and scientific and educational organizations in South Korea. There are branches of four South Korean universities in Uzbekistan: Inha, Puchon and Yeoju in Tashkent, as well as the Korea International University in Fergana, where students study in various specialties. In addition, Uzbek students have the opportunity to study at leading universities in South Korea. Scientific exchanges and joint research in areas such as information technology, medicine and engineering contribute to the development of the scientific potential of both countries. In March 2023, the Forum of Rectors of leading universities of the two countries was held in Tashkent.

The Korean language is taught in nine universities and 24 schools and lycees in the country, and South Korean foreign language universities in the cities of Busan and Daegu have established Uzbek language departments. In general, the number of Uzbek students in higher education institutions in the Republic of Korea exceeds 11,000.

Scientific cooperation between Uzbekistan and South Korea is actively developing through joint research in areas such as biotechnology, nanotechnology and medical sciences, agriculture, and ecology. Research institutes and universities of both countries conduct joint projects and exchanges of scientists, which contributes to the development of scientific potential and innovation. Such initiatives help accelerate scientific progress and the introduction of advanced technologies into the economy and society.

Active cultural exchanges between Uzbekistan and South Korea have been established, contributing to strengthening friendly ties and mutual understanding between the people. Festivals, exhibitions, concerts and other cultural events are regularly held to showcase the traditions, arts and cultures of both countries. These events enable the people of Uzbekistan and South Korea to get to know each other better, enrich their cultural experience and strengthen their ties of friendship.

The Seoul Park in Tashkent, which opened in 2014, and the monument to the great Uzbek poet and thinker Alisher Navoi in the capital of the Republic of Korea are symbols of friendship between the Uzbek and Korean people.

The presence of a large South Korean Diaspora in Uzbekistan, exceeding 180,000 ethnic Koreans, also plays an important role in strengthening cultural ties between the people, and promoting mutual understanding and friendship. It is important to note that the Korean Diaspora in Uzbekistan is the largest in Central Asia and the fifth largest in the world. National cultural centers, which operate in all regions of the country, make a great contribution to the preservation of the language, culture and traditions of Koreans in Uzbekistan.

A memorial monument "Gratitude to the Uzbek people for warmth and kindnesses" was unveiled in Seoul Park in Tashkent to mark the 80th anniversary of the resettlement of Koreans in Uzbekistan. And on 20 April 2019, the House of Korean Culture and Art was opened in Tashkent.

Cooperation in the field of health care is also becoming increasingly fruitful. The South Korean side assists in the training and internship of Uzbek medical workers in leading clinics and centers in Korea.

In 2020, with the assistance of the EDCF, the construction of the Children's Multidisciplinary Centre in Tashkent was completed. The successful implementation of this project served as a basis for the development of a grandiose project for the construction of a medical cluster, including a multidisciplinary hospital for adults, an oncology clinic, a medical university, and the creation of a pharmaceutical cluster.

In recent years, South Korea has seen a growing interest in Uzbekistan's tourist destinations. In 2023, more than 35 thousand tourists from South Korea visited our country. Travel agencies offer a variety of programs that include visits to historical and cultural attractions. Such initiatives stimulate mutual interest in the culture and history of the two countries, as well as strengthen friendly ties at the level of citizens.

The existence of direct air services between Uzbekistan and South Korea also plays an important role in strengthening bilateral relations. Regular flights between the capitals make traveling more accessible and convenient, contributing to the growth of business and tourist flows.

Uzbekistan and South Korea are actively working on joint environmental projects aimed at improving the environment and combating climate change. One of the key areas of cooperation is the introduction of water and air purification technologies. South Korean companies and experts are helping to introduce advanced methods of waste treatment and recycling, which contributes to improving the environmental situation in Uzbekistan.

Tashkent and Seoul emphasize that Uzbek-South Korean relations have significant potential for further expansion and deepening of cooperation. New areas of interaction, such as the green economy, digitalization and innovation, could become important areas for future partnership.

Today, it can be stated that the mutually beneficial Uzbek-South Korean relations since their establishment in 1992 have come a long way, becoming an example of a special strategic partnership. In this context, the forthcoming visit of the South Korean leader to Uzbekistan will undoubtedly broaden the horizons of cooperation and define new prospects for further deepening and expanding the partnership for the benefit of the progress and prosperity of the two countries and people.

The article was contributed by the Uzbekistan Embassy in Seoul. The views expressed are those of the embassy. -- Ed.