TASHKENT: South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Friday signed deals worth $12 billion with Uzbekistan during a week-long tour of Central Asia, as he seeks to ease reliance on China and the US.
President of commodity-rich Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev praised his country’s “strategic partnership” with Seoul as the leaders signed documents following talks.
Moon credited Mirziyoyev for “leading Uzbekistan into a new era” with a series of bold reforms. The nature of the deals were not specified during the press briefing.
Trade between Uzbekistan and South Korea in 2018 was just over $2bn.
Uzbek leader Mirziyoyev is looking to break out from the economic straitjacket imposed by his late hardline predecessor Islam Karimov and encourage more foreign investment and trade.
Karimov ruled Uzbekistan from before independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 until his death in 2016.
Moon’s office confirmed at the beginning of the week that economic affairs would dominate talks during his eight-day regional tour that began in gas-rich Turkmenistan and will finish in oil power Kazakhstan. But Moon also gave a nod to the cultural ties shared by the two countries when he referenced Uzbekistan’s 180,000-strong ethnic Korean population in an interview with Uzbek state media on Thursday.
Moon thanked Uzbekistan, saying the country “warmly received citizens of Korean descent who lost their home more than 80 years ago,” in the interview.
Published in Dawn, April 21st, 2019