Wednesday, July 04, 2012 -
South Korea’s foreign ministry invited more than 100 leading figures from Central Asia for talks Wednesday on finding ways to bolster investments in the hydrocarbons-rich region.
Policymakers, businesspeople, and scholars from the five Central Asian countries thrashed out ideas with their Korean hosts on stepping up collaborative ventures in areas ranging from renewable energies, medical care, infrastructure, finance, and pop music.
The annual meeting was the sixth of its type and also marks the 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Seoul and the former Soviet republics of Central Asia.
South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan signed separate tentative agreements with his counterparts from Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan as a prelude for further cooperation.
Seoul is keen to scaling up diplomatic relations with a view to get a larger piece of the region’s energy pie and greater participation in its infrastructure projects.
It also wants to boost the export of Korean pop culture, which has seen a recent boom in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Half a million ethnic Koreans live in Central Asia, a legacy of Soviet-era Stalinist purges.
Korea’s biggest companies are currently constructing chemical and power plants, drilling gas fields, and renovating refining plants in Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
But Seoul faces fierce competition from its giant northern neighbor China, which is heavily involved in oil and gas production and distribution.