SEOUL, June 12, 2012 — H.E. Dulat Bakishev, the Republic of Kazakhstan's Ambassador to Korea, spoke about the partnership between the two countries in a lunchtime presentation here at Asia Society Korea Center.
The Ambassador began with a brief introduction to Kazakhstan: as a 20-year-old "young" country, he explained, it is doing well economically, with 7.5% increase in last year's GDP and per capita GDP exceeding US $11,000, a significant growth compared to US $700 in 1991. Kazakhstan, he went on, understands the importance of economic development, is very keen on attracting foreign investment and technology, and is also undertaking huge infrastructure projects like railroads for both domestic and international use (the latter since Kazakhstan connects Asia and Europe).
Although Korea and Kazakhstan have only had diplomatic relations with each other for 20 years, Ambassador Bakishev remarked that the two countries' relationship reaches far back into the history of Shilla and Goguryeo dynasties in the early Common Era. Before the 1997 Asian financial crisis, Korea was the third-largest investor in Kazakhstan, with a prime interest in mining and energy. Korean investments are back in Kazakhstan after falling off as a result of the crisis. The Ambassador noted the listing of Kazakhmys, a mining company that is now a "global player," on the London Stock Exchange with the help of Samsung as one success story stemming from the partnership between Kazakhstan and Korea.
Moreover, financial companies like Kookmin Bank, Shinhan Bank and Hanwha Securities are also investing or trying to invest in Kazakhstan, and LG Chemical is trying to build a petrochemical plant next to Capsi while Samsung and KEPCO are trying to build an energy plant in Balhash. In addition, the Korean car companies Ssangyong and Hyundai have set up assembly plants in Kazakhstan.
The Ambassador proudly stated that Kazakhstan was the first country to have voluntarily abolished the nuclear arsenal it inherited from the Soviet Union. Kazakhstan firmly believes nuclear power will bring no tangible good, but it also supports the a country's "inalienable right" to use nuclear power for peaceful purposes — which he stressed again when the issue of Iran's nuclear ambitions came up. Bakishev explained that Kazakhstan has made a formal request to Iran to pursue peaceful use of nuclear energy, but also stressed that this matter should be dealt with diplomatically.
When asked about Kazakhstan's relationship with North Korea, the Ambassador remarked that the two countries have no embassies in each other's country and that the relationship is limited to cultural interaction between North Koreans and Koreans in Kazakhstan.
Bakishev reassured potential investors that concerns over political instability and a shaky regulatory apparatus are only natural and not limited to Kazakhstan. "We live in a world where what we can only predict is the unpredictability of things." Over the past 20 years, Kazakhstan has gone from being a completely communist country to a market economy and is moving toward becoming a democracy — as one proof, Bakishev cited the President's power-sharing arrangement with the parliament.