[Embassy Voice]A forum among neighborsGeographically Central Asia, comprising five Asian republics of the former Soviet Union, and Korea are not immediate neighbors. However, historically and culturally, we are in the same neighborhood. The majority of people in Central Asia speak Turkic languages that are in the same family as the Korean language. There are lots of other similarities.
After centuries of oblivion, we have rediscovered each other. Volumes of trade and investment have been growing continuously, flights have been increasing year by year. Most importantly, we are witnessing rising mutual interest.
Usually the region’s natural resources, including oil, gas and uranium, and the lives of Korean communities in Central Asia, are the focus of attention in the Korean media. In our region, Korea is synonymous with successful modernization: cars, electronics and IT.
But both sides need to redouble their efforts to fully use the existing potential for their mutual benefit. In this regard, every Central Asian government recently welcomed a recent Korean initiative to organize a forum, “Central Asia + Korea.” As a representative of Kazakhstan I expect that the forum, which met for the first time yesterday and today in Seoul, will re-energize mutual trade and diplomatic efforts.
In 2004 President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan proposed the creation of a Union of Central Asian States.
Kazakhstan hopes that the new Korean initiative will benefit the integration processes astir in the region.
The forum will serve as a venue for consultation on important global, regional and bilateral issues. Among other things, trade and investment matters deserve particular attention.
It is significant that the two regions are not rivals in the world economy.
Central Asia possesses abundant natural resources. Kazakhstan alone, as of today, has the world’s seventh-largest deposits of oil, the sixth-largest deposits of gas and the second-largest deposits of uranium.
For almost a decade, Kazakhstan’s economy has been growing at an annual rate of about 10 percent. Our neighboring countries are demonstrating positive economic growth, as well. Together Central Asians represent significant potential in terms of culture, human resources and economy.
In turn, Korea possesses a sizable and modern economy, and a hardworking and well-educated workforce.
The time to substantially activate bilateral cooperation between the regions has come.
Together we can do more. Participating countries can more closely coordinate their efforts in fighting global challenges such as global warming, the threat of terrorism, the proliferation of nuclear weapons and fighting poverty and diseases. By doing so, we would also enhance our security.
In the economic field, the parties are able to achieve more prosperity by finding new and creative formulas of cooperation.
Obviously, the young states of Central Asia are searching for long-term partners in trade (especially export markets), investment (two-way interaction, since some energy-rich countries have started to invest in Korea), development of local industries and new technologies.
By effectively addressing each other’s main concerns, the parties can deepen trust and build stronger bridges.
It is my sincere hope that all participating governments will give their full support to the goals of the forum. It is not difficult to predict the outcome if the friendly peoples of the two regions combine their energies for the common task of achieving co-prosperity through active and constructive cooperation.
I also commend the efforts of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade in skillfully preparing the forum and deeply appreciate its role in effectively coordinating all the efforts with the foreign ministries of the respective countries.
*The writer is Kazakhstan’s ambassador to South Korea.
by Dulat Bakishev