Park plans trip to Central Asia

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Park plans trip to Central Asia

President Park Geun-hye will travel to three Central Asian countries - Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan - from June 16 through June 21 with a goal of bringing more natural resources into Korea and stepping up joint business projects including gas production and infrastructure construction, the Blue House said yesterday.

“President Park’s trip to three countries is hoped to serve as momentum for Korea’s cooperation with the three countries, core partners on its path toward realizing her ‘Eurasia initiative,’ to expand joint businesses with Korean enterprises, to reconfirm the firm trust and ties with those countries and to upgrade Korea-Central Asian cooperation,” said the presidential office in a press release.

The six-day trip comes less than a month after Park’s one-day trip to the United Arab Emirates, during which she celebrated the installation of a Korean-made nuclear reactor in the Middle Eastern country.

In Tashkent, Uzbekistan, the first destination of the upcoming trip, Park will have a summit meeting with President Islam Karimov as a state guest to discuss various business cooperation projects with an emphasis on oil trade and plant construction.

Issues on the table will also include follow-up measures to an agreement forged in 2011 by the former Lee Myung-bak administration that allowed Korea and Uzbekistan to develop gas fields near the Aral Sea and build a gas and chemical plant. This has been the largest project between the two countries since they established diplomatic relations in 1992.

Despite the breakthrough, Korea has been unable to have the natural gas produced there delivered here due to absence of a pipeline linking the two countries.

The Park administration has set a goal of revitalizing the economy within Eurasia, create more jobs in the region and eventually induce North Korea into opening up its market with her Eurasia initiative as a vehicle. The success of future negotiations over a pipeline could become a key element to one of the signature initiatives of her administration.

Following a meeting with a group of ethnic Koreans in the capital, Park will then travel to Samarkand, the country’s second-largest city, a main stop on the storied Silk Road.

In Kazakhstan, Park will have a summit with President Nursultan Nazarbayev to discuss cooperation in energy, science and technology and the environment.

Some 250 Korean companies have operations in the country.

The trip will wrap up in Turkmenistan, which will be the first time a Korean president has visited.

A summit with President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov is scheduled and the two leaders are expected to talk about a potential import-export deal involving the country’s natural gas reserves, the world’s sixth largest.

Another topic of conversation will be human resources exchange between the two countries.

Korea companies have been doing business in Turkmenistan for six years.


BY SEO JI-EUN [spring@joongang.co.kr]

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