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Deteriorating Russian economy to have strong impact on Central Asian countries, including Turkmenistan – Korean Ambassador (interview)
Central Asia | analysis | 15:43, 05 October 2015 | 10645

AKIPRESS.COM - Russian economy has been deteriorated due to the low oil price and the West's economic sanctions against Russia, which will have strong impact on the economy of Central Asian countries. Turkmenistan is hardly to be exception, according to an exclusive interview given to CA-News by Jong Tae-in, the South Korea Ambassador to Turkmenistan.

How do you assess the current relations between Turkmenistan and South Korea? When were diplomatic relations established between the two countries?

Korea and Turkmenistan can be regarded as brother countries, which share a lot of historical and cultural affinities. The bilateral relations between the two countries have developed rapidly since the diplomatic ties in 1992. The exchange of state visits for recent two years set a new milestone to expand this cooperative relationship to various fields.

How much direct investments have been sent by Korean investors in Central Asia over the past 20 years?

Total amount of Korea's investments to Central Asia for the last 20 years is 3.273 million dollars, and the numbers of the registered investment was 1.634 [million dollars].

Did imports and exports between Turkmenistan and South Korea grow after the state visits of President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov and Park Geun-hye? How do you assess the state of trade and economic partnership between the two countries at the moment?

The trade volume between Korea and Turkmenistan needs to be expanded in near future. At the moment, Korea's major export items are cars, steel, metal products, construction equipment and ICT equipment. Korea's major import items from Turkmenistan are textile and cotton.

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Do Korean carmakers plan to launch their plants in Turkmenistan, following the example of Uzbekistan? Are there negotiations underway at this moment? At what stage is the construction of plants for polyethylene and polypropylene production in Turkmenistan carried out by LG International Corp. and Hyundai Engineering?

There is no plan for opening car manufacturing plants in Turkmenistan. [Construction of the plant for polyethylene and polypropylene production was initiated in May 2015 and will be completed in September 2018.]

Do they plan to open a direct air flight between Ashgabat and Seoul?

Though the air transport agreement between Korea and Turkmenistan entered into effect in January 2009, there is no plan for the direct plan in the near future.

This year, the Korean-Turkmen forum on water management was held. What are the results of this forum? Do you plan to conduct similar events in the future?

The Korean-Turkmen Forum on Water Resources Management was held on 7 June 2015. K-water, Hyundai Engineering, Doosan Heavy Industries and Construction, and Korean Atomic Energy Research Institute were present there from [the] Korean side. Minister of Water Economy, Deputy Minister of Water Economy as well as representatives of Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Nature Protection, Ashgabat City Administration and Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs attended the seminar from [the] Turkmen side.

The representative of Ministry of Water Economy made presentation on the present status & development of water resources management of Turkmenistan, and Korean companies made presentation on how to cooperate between Korea and Turkmenistan in the water resources management. Turkmen water resources are not efficiently addressed and managed because of disputes on the Amu Darya River among Central Asian countries and water losses due to old water pipe, etc. The participating Korean companies showed their willingness to contribute to developing Turkmenistan's water resources management.

Mr. Taganov, Minister of Water Economy of Turkmenistan hoped that many Korean companies with high technology and experience would participate in water resources management of Turkmenistan, including construction of desalination facilities.

The Korean Embassy will co-host a seminar on renewable energy with Academy of Science of Turkmenistan in November this year. Its purpose is to discuss ways of cooperation in the field of renewable energy. The two countries want to share the know-hows on how to develop and manage the renewable energy. The Korean side will introduce Korea's contemporary policy and solar energy industries.

How do you assess the impact of sanctions against Russia for Central Asian countries, as well as the deteriorating economic situation in Russia? How will this affect the economies of Central Asia?

Recently, Russian economy has been deteriorated due to the low oil price and the West's economic sanctions against Russia, which will have strong impact on the economy of Central Asian countries. Turkmenistan is hardly to be exception.

Would you comment on the aggravation of the situation on the Korean Peninsula?

The recent tension on the Korean Peninsula was triggered by North Korea's provocation with wooden-box mines and escalated to its shelling to the demilitarized zone in the South. The high-level talks between the two Koreas death with the tensions, but there still exists possibility of another provocation by North Korea in near future.

Despite recent repeated tensions, the South Korean government is pursuing the policy of building trust between North and South Korea, establishing peace on the Korean Peninsula and laying the groundwork for eventual unification, which are possible based on the reliable national security.

As well known, the North Korean nuclear program is threatening stability of the Korean Peninsula and a major obstacle to its peaceful reunification as well. Still, North Korea continues the provocations by threatening short and long range missile launching test together with testing nuclear detonation.

South Korea is maintaining pressure on the North through the close cooperation with the United States and by pursuing a meaningful Six-Party Talks for a complete denuclearization of the North. In the mean time, we also try to induce the North to change its attitude through humanitarian aid and cooperation with international organizations such as the United Nations.

For the peace on the Korean Peninsula and the regional stability in the North East Asia, North Korea's nuclear ambition should not be allowed and the world community should make concerted efforts to prevent North Korea's achievement of nuclear weapons. Turkmenistan is expected to participate in these international cooperation effort.

How do you assess the bilateral cultural cooperation between Turkmenistan and South Korea? Tell us about educational exchange programs for students from Turkmenistan.

Turkmenistan and Korea have promoted the cultural cooperation. Various activities such as Korean traditional dance performance, Korean traditional costume dance performance of B-boy, Korean film festival and introduction of Korean Cuisine have been presented to Turkmen people. The Turkmen traditional dance was also introduced in Korea several times.

In addition to those, if available, I would like to recommend to prepare for the venue of discussion or joint study of the common historical and cultural features connecting the two countries. Based on this solidarity, the two countries can move forward together for further cooperation.

The Korean Movie Week last year, highly evaluated by Turkmen people, encourages me to try to find more opportunities to introduce Korean culture such as movies, serial dramas, Korean cuisine, etc. to Turkmen public.

On the other hand, the Korean Government Scholarship Program provides every year several Turkmen students with the chance of studying in Korea, the number of which is on the rise.

Please comment on the refuse of the Turkmen sportsmen to participate in the XXVIII Summer Universiade in Gwangju due to the outbreak MERS.

It was a pity that the Turkmen team did not take part in the 2015 Summer Universidade in Gwanqju, Korea. As far as I know, it was not due to MERS but to other unavoidable something. Nevertheless, we witness the sports cooperations are making progress on various occasions including preparing for the 2017 [Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games to be held in Ashgabat].

You've held the position of Ambassador to Turkmenistan since 2014. What does attract you in Turkmenistan?

Turkmenistan and Korea were neighbors [for] each other in the past. Because of that, they have common historical and cultural features. If available, working together to discover the source of the common background is recommended to strengthen the long lasted old solidarity.

In addition to that, I would like to say that I have fallen deeply into finding the Turkmenistan's potentials for its future and that of Eurasian continent, which are greater than I expected. The more will, the more progress.

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