Economic ties, opportunities key to talks

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Economic ties, opportunities key to talks

Yesterday, President Roh Moo-hyun left for the Republic of Kazakhstan, after which he will visit Russia. Mr. Roh’s visit to Kazakhstan will be the first for a South Korean head of state since the two nations established diplomatic ties in 1992. Mr. Roh’s trip is a reciprocal visit, for President Nursultan Nazarbaev made an official visit to South Korea last November. During his two-day stay in the country’s capital, Astana, Mr. Roh will attend a dinner banquet for ethnic Koreans living in Kazakhstan on Sunday, and on Monday, he will meet with President Nazarbaev, in addition to other official functions. The meeting with Mr. Nazarbaev will mostly focus on seeking cooperation on natural resources, such as the joint development of oil reserves in the Caspian Sea. The two countries are also expected to sign an agreement to cooperate together in the information technology sector. Mr. Roh will leave for Moscow on Monday, where he will attend a gathering of Korean-Russians. South Korea and Russia established formal ties in 1990, and relations between the two nations have steadily grown stronger over the years. His official schedule will begin on Tuesday, when Mr. Roh will begin by paying homage to the tomb of the unnamed soldier. He then will receive state decoration honors and meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. This will be the second meeting for the two leaders; the first one was at last October’s APEC Summit in Bangkok. Mr. Roh will also meet with the chairman of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly before partaking in the state banquet held in honor of his visit. On Wednesday, Mr. Roh will give a speech on “The Development of South Korea-Russia Relations in the 21st Century” at Moscow University and then receive an honorary doctorate. After touring the Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center and later meeting with Russian and South Korean business officials, Mr. Roh will attend a reception hosted by the Russia-Korea Friendship Association before returning to Seoul on Thursday. * TECHNOLOGY For his state visits to Kazakhstan and Russia, President Roh Mo-hyun will take with him the newest laptop computer, the Tablet PC. Instead of carrying heavy stacks of paper, Mr. Roh can check his travel itinerary and agenda by simply writing on the screen. The computer uses wireless keyboards as well. For example, if the president types, “Siberian Gas development project,” the computer will automatically call up all the information regarding the subject, including potential conversation topics with Mr. Putin. Instead of discussing lofty and conceptual topics during his meetings with presidents from both countries, Mr. Roh plans to get right down to the specifics. Diplomatic rhetoric will be replaced by talks on energy cooperation as well as science and technology cooperation initiatives. The biggest concern will be counterterrorism, in light of the recent airline bombings in Russia and and Chechen terrorists’ attack on a school in Beslan, North Ossetia. * ENTOURAGE The official entourage for both trips include Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon; Minister of Commerce, Industry and Energy Lee Hee-beom; Science and Technology Minister Oh Myung; Senior National Security Adviser Kwon Chin-ho; Minister of Trade Kim Hyun-jong; Blue House Foreign Policy Adviser Chong Woo-seong; Senior Adviser of Policy and Planning Kim Young-joo; Presidential Adviser on Science and Technology Park Ky-young; National Security Council’s Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination Yun Byung-se; Blue House spokesman Kim Jong-min and the Foreign Ministry’s Director-General of European Affairs Kim Young-seok. As a special entourage, three National Assembly lawmakers will accompany the president, Uri Party members Kim Hyuk-kyu, Lee Mi-kyung, Lee Hwa-yeong and Kim Hyeong-joo, who is a former Russian scholar and fluent in the language. Professor Moon Chung-in, head of the presidential committee on the Northeast Asian Cooperation Initiative, will also be part of this special group. A total of 50 businessmen from the public and private sectors will accompany Mr. Roh for various investment initiatives. Among them are Federation of Korean Industries Chairman Kang Shin-ho; Korea International Trade Association Chairman Kim Jae-chul; Korea Chamber of Commerce Chairman Park Yong-sung; Korea Federation of Small and Medium Business Chairman Kim Yong-gu, and chairmen of the Korea Gas Corporation and Korea National Oil Corporation. Most of the public-sector industry chiefs will travel with Mr. Roh to both Kazakhstan and Russia. From the private sector, CEOs of major conglomerates will be included in the entourage, such as Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-hee; LG Chairman Koo Bon-moo; Hyundai Motors CEO Choi Jae-kook; SK Corp. CEO Shin Heon-cheol; Daewoo International CEO Lee Tae-yong; Kumho Chairman Park Sam-koo, Daelim Chairman Lee Joon-yong; Doosan Heavy Industries Chairman Yoo Young-seok, and KT Chairman Lee Young-kyung. Shin Dong-kyu, the chairman of the Korea Export-Import Bank, will be the only head of a state financial institution to accompany Mr. Roh. The business leaders will seek international cooperation in various industries, ranging from oil reserve explorations, Russian refinery plant projects and investment opportunities for consumer goods. Most of the conglomerate heads will visit Russia only, with a handful going to Kazakhstan for investment opportunities in natural resource explorations. The head of Korea Resources Corporation will look into joint research on natural minerals exploration in Kazakhstan. * BRIEF COUNTRY OVERVIEW In trade, South Korea and Kazakhstan have mostly been cooperating in natural resources, with the total amount of trade between the two countries reaching $370 million last year. Major conglomerates such as Samsung, LG and Daewoo have invested in the country, about $1.8 billion won in 2003. Among the population of 15 million, 47 percent are Muslim and 44 percent are Russian Orthodox. The total amount of trade between Russia and Korea reached $4.2 billion in 2003, and about 110,000 people travel between South Korea and Russia annually. South Korean investment in Russia amounted to $360 million last year. Russia has a population of 146 million, most of whom are of the Russian Orthodox faith. by Choi Jie-ho

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