[FOUNTAIN]Uzbekistan opens its arms to Korea

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[FOUNTAIN]Uzbekistan opens its arms to Korea

With a history of foreign invasions and memories of undemocratic practices under military regimes, President Roh Moo-hyun’s visit to Uzbekistan prompts several thoughts to be pondered by Koreans.
During the president’s visit to the country, which has abundant natural resources, the two countries signed agreements for cooperation in oil exploration and gold and uranium mining. Aside from giving some symbolic development rights to Russia and China, Uzbekistan has not allowed many foreign pacts in the petroleum sector. Also, it has not permitted joint mining of gold and uranium, both strategic resources.
Thanks to the agreement, Korea will be able to participate in the exploration of new oil fields in the Aral Sea region. Also, Korea will take part in the joint exploration and development of uranium and gold mines. Beijing has been asking Uzbekistan to undertake joint petroleum and natural gas development projects, and India wishes to collaborate in uranium mining. However, Seoul was the first to establish a technical foundation for joint exploration.
Uzbekistan chose Korea as a partner because of interesting dynamics of international politics. Those familiar with history know that Uzbekistan, which suffered from Chinese aggression into central Asia during the Tang and Qing Dynasties, has always considered China a “virtual enemy.” Uzbeks are equally cautious of India, which possesses nuclear weapons and pursues hegemony in Southwest Asia. According to a source at the embassy, Uzbekistan feels victimized from Russia because it gained its independence from the former Soviet Union and is suspicious of Japan, which rides the influence of the United States and only pursues its own interests. After all, Korea might be the best partner for economic cooperation, as we have a thriving economy but no history of invasion or ambition for domination.
Uzbeks are also impressed by the survival skills of Korean companies that have grown despite the various restrictions and unreasonable bureaucracy in the past. With appropriate flexibility, Korean companies can turn the weaknesses and shortcomings into advantages in the developing country.

by Choi Hoon

The writer is a political news reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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