As Uzbekistan and South Korea mark the 25th anniversary of official diplomatic ties between the two countries, Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev made his first trip to Seoul this week while his accompanying delegation signed a package of 75 agreements worth just under $9bn.
The package included a $2.95bn investment commitment in energy, oil and gas chemicals; $2.7bn in banking and finance; and $1.7bn in construction and infrastructure development. The Ministry of Foreign Trade of Uzbekistan, Almalyk GMK JSC and Korean Institute of Rare Metals (KIRAM), meanwhile, signed a road map on cooperation in the field of scientific, technical and innovation activities.
Although the two states only established official diplomatic relations after Uzbekistan declared independence from the Soviet Union, ties between the two countries go to the Stalin era which saw the ethnic deportation to Central Asia of ethnic Koreans. Today Uzbekistan is home to the world’s sixth largest Korean community and some 460 enterprises backed by Korean investment active in a number of sectors including oil and gas, petrochemicals and chemical, machine-building, textiles, ICT, transport, logistics and tourism.
South Korea already holds stakes in the Surgil gas field, the joint construction of a major Uzbek gas processing plant and the Bukhara region’s natural gas development project which together are worth $12bn; but its current economic leverage is primarily a product of its efforts in assisting Uzbekistan to diversifying its economy away from the natural gas sector.