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Yoon, Mirziyoyev agree on S. Korea's 1st export of bullet trains to Uzbekistan

June 14, 2024 - 17:14 By Son Ji-hyoung
President Yoon Suk Yeol (left) and Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev shake hands before the joint press conference held at the Kuksaroy Presidential Palace in Tashkent, Uzbekistan on Friday. (Yonhap)

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan -- President Yoon Suk Yeol and his Uzbek counterpart, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, held a summit Friday to bolster their "special strategic partnership" in fields not limited to infrastructure and mineral resources.

Notably, with the two leaders present at the Kuksaroy Presidential Palace in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, South Korea-based heavy industry firm Hyundai Rotem and state-run Uzbekistan Railways signed a 270 billion won ($195.7 million) deal to export South Korea's six domestically developed high-speed trains, each containing seven cars and running at a top speed of 250 kilometers per hour.

According to the presidential office, the deal marks Korea's first deal to export a homegrown bullet train, 20 years after introducing the high-speed train, the fifth in the world.

Railway operators of the two countries signed a separate memorandum of understanding to boost cooperation, allowing Korea to aid Uzbekistan's railway operation and maintenance, rail industry workforce development and train depot construction.

Plus, according to Seoul, some $200 million in loans from Korea's Economic Development Cooperation Fund can be used to deploy Korean high-speed electric trains in Uzbekistan.

Yoon said the export deal will "contribute to the railroad infrastructure improvement in Uzbekistan and expand bilateral cooperation in high speed train operations," in a joint press conference in Tashkent.

"I asked President Mirziyoyev for his attention to create more chances for infrastructure cooperation #between# the two countries, and we agreed to closely cooperate on the matter in the future," Yoon also said.

A rendered image of a high speed train. (123rf)

In this regard, another document signed Friday will allow the Uzbek government to obtain low-interest loans up to a maximum commitment of $2 billion by 2027 through the EDCF. Previously, the upper bar for the commitment stood at $1 billion.

The summit between Yoon and Mirziyoyev also laid the groundwork for South Korean firms to join a $5.35 billion tender for a toll road project connecting Uzbek capital Tashkent and the country's most densely populated Andijan, which would stretch some 320 km, according to the presidential office.

Separately, another batch of EDCF loans of $1.05 million will be offered for the second-stage construction of "Tashkent Pharma Park," designed to build research and educational components for innovative research and production in the Uzbek pharmaceutical cluster.

As for the critical minerals supply chain, the two countries agreed to strengthen supply chain cooperation in Uzbekistan, which boasts rich strategic reserves of tungsten and molybdenum. Seoul sees tungsten and molybdenum as key resources for the production of semiconductor chips and secondary batteries used in electric vehicles.

Signing a document called "Arrangement of Cooperation on Critical Mineral Partnership," South Korean firms will be given priority in exploring mines and commercializing minerals there once a mine proves profitable. South Korea signed a similar document during Yoon's state visit to Kazakhstan.

Mirziyoyev said in his remarks that Uzbekistan is trying to share and transplant South Korea's development success, primarily in the fields of industry, electronics, digitalization, agriculture, education and health care.

He also expressed his support for South Korea's commitment to the lasting peace and security on the Korean Peninsula.

President Yoon Suk Yeol (third from right) and Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev (right) enter the Kuksaroy Presidential Palace for a summit in Tashkent, Uzbekistan on Friday. (Yonhap)

Seoul and Tashkent also agreed to continue to hold ministerial talks and policy coordination dialogues between the foreign affairs ministries of the two countries, while strengthening their economic and trade talks.

These were among 17 documents either signed or announced during the summit.

Yoon is currently on a state visit to Uzbekistan, the final leg of his trip to three Central Asia countries. He and his wife Kim Keon Hee were previously in Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan.