Kyrgyz Republic President Sadyr Japarov, right, poses with, South Korea’s National Assembly Speaker Park Byeong-seug when the latter visited the Central Asian country during April 3-5. Photo courtesy of National Assembly

Kyrgyz ambassador in Seoul asks for closer bilateral relationship

The Korea News Plus recently had an interview with H.E. Dinara Kemelova, Kyrgyz Amb. to the Republic of Korea on the occasion of the Kyrgyz Independence Day, which falls on Aug. 31 this year. The following is the full text of the interview. _ ED.

Q: First of all, how are the policies of Kyrgyz President to bolster relations with Korea and last but not least Kyrgyz government to protect pandemic spread in Kyrgyz soil and in particular for collaboration with Korea in relation to vaccine supply, booster shot and travel bubble exchange with Korea, to name just a few?

A: Let me start with information that on Aug. 31, this year, the Kyrgyz Republic will commemorate 30th anniversary of its independence. Since its independence, the Kyrgyz Republic has pursued a pragmatic, balanced, multi-vector, and consistent foreign policy.

Next year we will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations with the Republic of Korea. Kyrgyzstan considers South Korea one of the main and important partners in east Asia, and we have many similarities among people of the two countries.

President of the Kyrgyz Republic, Sadyr Japarov, elected this year, in his message to the people on May 5, noted the openness to cooperate with all foreign countries on the basis of the principle of mutual respect for each other’s interests.

This means that we are ready to strengthen and expand cooperation with the Republic of Korea, which is priority country in the foreign policy of the Kyrgyz Republic.

On April 3-5, this year, the Speaker of the National Assembly Park Byeong-seug paid an official visit to the Kyrgyz Republic, within the framework of which negotiations with President of the Kyrgyz Republic Sadyr Japarov, Speaker of our parliament Talant Mamytov, Prime Minister of the Kyrgyz Republic Ulukbek Maripov took place.

During the meeting, Kyrgyz leadership attaches great importance to the further continuation of the political dialogue between the two countries and raised proposals for cooperation in different fields: in investment and trade, promotion of joint economic projects in infrastructure, education, healthcare, including the fight against COVID-19, promoting culture, tourism, and labor.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, our government has taken all the necessary precautions and guidelines for travelers from abroad.

And we also cooperate with the Korean side and are grateful to the government of South Korea for providing assistance by PCR tests and medical equipment last year. 

With the investment of Korean companies “AMSBIOlab” PCR test center was established in Kyrgyzstan in May of this year.

I would like to say that recently the situation with the coronavirus in the Kyrgyz Republic is not critical compared to the previous year: these days, around 200-300 new cases of the COVID-19 are registered daily. However, we still need capacity building and improvement of the healthcare system.

Due to the underdevelopment of the healthcare infrastructure, despite all efforts of our government, Kyrgyzstan has a lack of qualified doctors, modernized equipment, and medicines.

Regarding the vaccination supply in Kyrgyzstan, foreign states partners and international organizations have been supplying vaccines to our country. We also see that South Korea itself is experiencing difficulties in obtaining vaccines from pharmaceutical companies for its population. But I hope that there is potential for near future cooperation.

As for travel exchange, the Kyrgyz Republic has opened its borders for the citizens of many countries, including South Korea. However, we are witnesses strict measures by the Korean government for the entrance of foreign country travelers, including quarantine.


Q: Considering a hub location of the Kyrgyz Republic among the Central Asian region, how do you assess the desirable cooperation ways and methods with neighboring nations for regional security, peace, and efforts to overcome the recent pandemic, among others?

A: You know, the location of the Kyrgyz Republic in Central Asia, which is a connecting bridge between Europe and Asia and where the routes of the Great Silk Road passed historically, creates favorable conditions for the development of transport and information communications, logistics, trade, investment potential, tourism, cultural diversity, education, scientific progress, and other directions.

The growing tension in the world, including recent events in Afghanistan, modern challenges, and threats, as well as the threat of the emergence and escalation of conflicts near the borders of the Kyrgyz Republic and the external borders of the Central Asian states, require a proactive foreign policy and the adoption of preventive measures.

Ensuring security in the country and the region determines the need for close coordination, cooperation, and exchange of information with all neighboring states and regional international organizations.

Those events currently taking place in the world indicate that no state is able to effectively resist modern challenges and threats solely by its own efforts, and this was especially shown in the case of the fight against COVID-19.

Therefore, the President of Kyrgyzstan actively participates in the regular Consultative Meeting of the Heads of States of Central Asia, which was launched in 2018. An important impetus for regional cooperation was the meeting of the heads of state of Central Asia held on August 5-6, 2021, in Turkmenistan, during which priority issues of the regional agenda were considered.

The leaders of the Central Asian country discussed key aspects of the development of political, trade, economic, cultural, and humanitarian interaction between the countries of the region.

In addition, a constructive dialogue took place on the pressing issues of international development, exchanged views on regional stability, emphasized the high level of mutual understanding, respect, and trust between the countries.

Kyrgyzstan also is member of regional unions and organizations, including the Commonwealth of independent states (CIS), Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), the Eurasian Economic Union, Cooperation Council of Turkic-Speaking States, in the framework of which modern threats and challenges, as well as common efforts on fighting against COVID-19, are discussed.

On the Foreign ministerial level, there are different dialogue platforms, such as Korea-Central Asia Cooperation Forum, which was launched in 2007 in order to develop cooperation in economic, political, cultural, and educational areas, as well as promoting collaboration in the fight against and mitigation of modern challenges as climate change, COVID-19, security threats.


Q: As a testbed for attracting foreign investments into the region, how can be Kyrgyz’s location and its geographic significance explained in terms of its investment advantage for Korean investors who are eager to penetrate into the Central Asian market in general?

A: I would like to note that Kyrgyzstan is located in the heart of Central Asia. If you launch production in Kyrgyzstan, it allows you free access to the Eurasian and European markets. I’ll explain what does it means. Kyrgyzstan is a member of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) with a big common market.

In addition, the Kyrgyz Republic, having the GSP+ status, can access the markets of 28 EU countries on preferential terms. GSP+ expanded preferences mean the elimination of tariffs for more than 6,200 products. For example, exporters from Kyrgyzstan can supply agricultural products to the EU at a zero-tariff rate: fruits, processed agricultural products (canned food, juices), dried fruits, food products, textiles, felting products, and clothing.


Q: In that regard, are there any specific strategies for the government of the Kyrgyz Republic to attract more many foreign corporations into the Kyrgyz and particularly how are the promising industry areas between the two countries as well as promising investment areas from the perspective of recent investment environment improvement in the Kyrgyz?

A: Kyrgyzstan has a favorable investment climate for foreign investments, and our country is taking all possible measures to improve it by implementing political and socio-economic reforms, providing the necessary guarantees to foreign investors, liberal trade, a free regime for currency exchange, and low taxes.

In addition, we ensure a free-market economy and skilled labor.

The Kyrgyz Republic has created a liberal legislative framework in relation to the protection of the rights of foreign investors.

The Kyrgyz Republic provides foreign citizens making investments in its territory a national regime of economic activity which means the same regime as to nationals of the Kyrgyz Republic.

Investors investing in priority sectors of the economy and social sphere, working in certain territories of the republic, may be provided with benefits in accordance with state development programs (projects).

The government of the Kyrgyz Republic issued a decree containing a list of preferential types of industrial activities subject to preferential taxation. In accordance with the resolution, the list includes types of industrial activities in such areas as all types of industrial production based on innovative technologies; light and food industries; energy; the processing of agricultural products; and any export-oriented production.

South Korean investors could also take part in the construction of infrastructure, transport logistics, smart cities, textiles, agriculture, and green economy projects.


Q: Please touch on Kyrgyz President ambitions to elevate the livelihood of Kyrgyz people, to heighten the Kyrgyz voice among the Central Asian region as well as CIS countries, and last but not least to lift its country standing in the international arena such as among former CIS countries and for example, UN among others.

A: You know, there have been many important changes in the internal political situation in Kyrgyzstan lately. In January of this year, early presidential elections were held in the country, in which the current President of the country, Sadyr Japarov, won.

In his election campaign, Mr. Sadyr Japarov voiced the main points of his program for the development of the country, which covered such important points as the eradication of clan and family rule, the fight against corruption, trust, the establishment of the dictatorship of the law, openness, transparency and justice, the preservation of the unity and cohesion of the people, improving the socio-economic situation of the country, reforms in public administration and the judicial system, etc.

In addition, two referendums were held to determine the form of government of the Kyrgyz Republic and to draft a new Constitution, which was adopted on May 5 this year.

According to the new Constitution, our country is currently a presidential republic, like the Republic of Korea. The President is the head of state and heads the executive branch of the Kyrgyz Republic.

In this regard, President Sadyr Japarov addressed the people of Kyrgyzstan, where he outlined the main directions where the government’s efforts will be directed, including the implementation of economic reforms, including the fiscal, judicial systems, human rights, transport, and logistics, as well as foreign trade policies.

In addition, the primary task was to attract direct investment into the country’s economy, increase the volume of exports, create favorable conditions for doing business, while the priority areas were voiced as energy, subsoil use, agriculture, mining, ecology, digitalization, etc.    

As you can see, a difficult situation is currently observed in world politics, the global economic and financial situation remains unstable, and global and regional challenges and threats to security are intensifying.

Therefore, at this stage, we are faced with important and ambitious goals and tasks that require us to take timely, effective action to ensure a balanced, pragmatic foreign policy and advance the country’s national interests in the international arena.

I would like to note that the foreign policy of the Kyrgyz Republic leadership is aimed at creating favorable external conditions for the stable development of Kyrgyzstan, forming good-neighborly relations with neighboring countries, further developing mutually beneficial cooperation with foreign partners, both in bilateral and multilateral formats within the framework of international and regional organizations and integration associations.

Currently, relations with the countries of Central Asia, allies, strategic and international partners, and states of the near and far abroad are developing in a positive manner.

Since the presidency, the Head of State has visited all Central Asian countries, Russia, Turkey, etc. During these summits, along with political issues, the prospects for expanding foreign economic and trade relations, promoting exports and tourism opportunities, attracting foreign investment, cooperation in combating COVID- 19, terrorism, and extremism threats were discussed.

I hope in the near future, President Sadyr Japarov will pay an official visit to the Republic of Korea.

As I mentioned earlier, the Kyrgyz Republic also actively interacts with the UN, EAEU, CSTO, SCO, CIS, OSCE, OIC, CCTS, ECO, and other international organizations. Kyrgyzstan is actively promoting initiatives on peace, security, humanitarian dialogue, and other topical issues on the international agenda.

It is important to note that in April of this year, at the Plenary meeting of the 75th session of the UN General Assembly, the resolution “Nature knows no boundaries: Transboundary cooperation is a key factor in the conservation and use of biodiversity” initiated by the Kyrgyz Republic, was unanimously adopted.

During the adoption of the resolution, along with the general support of all states, 60 UN member states co-sponsored the resolution of Kyrgyzstan.


Q: How do you assess desirable diplomatic development directions between Korea and the Kyrgyz in terms of market potentials in the Central Asian region in general, including resources diplomacy and concretely speaking in terms of ODA assistance and sharing experiences about regional development from Korea such as Saemaul Movement, etc.?

A: It should be noted that Kyrgyzstan is a partner of the government cooperation program “New Northern Policy” and is aimed at expanding cooperation in various fields.

You may have heard that this year the government of South Korea has included Kyrgyzstan in the list of priority partner countries for five years.  

In particular, the South Korean government intends to provide advisory and grant assistance through official development assistance (ODA) to both government agencies of the Kyrgyz Republic and the private sector.

When implementing such projects, there is an opportunity to capacity building and learn Korean experience in smart technologies, IT, agriculture, manufacturing and processing, transportation, and logistic sectors that are important for Kyrgyzstan.

As for the “Saemaul Movement,” we cooperate with KOICA and Korea Saemaul Undong Center. Since 2019, the “My Village” project has been implemented through KOICA.

Currently, the second phase of the project is underway, where 30 villages in Kyrgyzstan have been selected, which are trained on the Korean experience to create income-generating businesses. We think that this project will bring many benefits to our residents of the regions.


Q: Please touch upon travel spots in the Kyrgyz for Korean tourists who are eager to explore the Kyrgyz sooner or later by way of mutual travel bubble programs etc.

Today, the tourism sector is one of the priorities and export-oriented sectors of the economy of the Kyrgyz Republic.

A: Kyrgyzstan is a country of heavenly mountains, as 93 percent of the territory of our country is mountains. Tourism in the Kyrgyz Republic in recent years has become popular both for neighboring countries and for guests from far abroad.

Before the pandemic, the growth of South Korean tourists was 10 percent, which amounted to more than 16,000 tourists. Kyrgyzstan is famous for its variety of beautiful landscapes, alps mountains, and crystal clear rivers and lakes. In particular, famous Lake “Issyk-Kul,” which we call the Pearl of Central Asia.

As far as I know, South Koreans love hiking, trekking, skiing, and cycling. For this, special tours have been created in Kyrgyzstan, especially for mountain lovers.

As far as climbers are concerned, on the territory of the Kyrgyz Republic, there are some of the highest mountain peaks: Pobeda Peak, Lenin Peak, Khan Tengri Peak, whose height exceeds 7 kilometers above sea level.

In winter, more than 50 ski resorts operate in Kyrgyzstan. You can enjoy the beauty of nature at any time of the year, as there are all four seasons in Kyrgyzstan, as well as delicious, tasty organic foods.

Any foreign tourist once arriving in Kyrgyzstan falls in love with him forever!


Q: How are the exchanges of the two nations in the non-governmental areas such as education, sports, parliamentary diplomacy, etc., to name just a few?

There is a friendship group for cooperation in both parliaments of two countries, and on June 30, I met with the Head of the Kyrgyzstan-Korea Parliamentary Friendship Group of the National Assembly of the Republic of Korea Kang Gi-yun.

A: During the meeting, we discussed the prospects for inter-parliamentary cooperation between Kyrgyzstan and South Korea and exchanged views on the issues of strengthening trade-economic, cultural-humanitarian cooperation, including education.

I have to mention that in Kyrgyzstan, there were established different Korean agencies offices as KOICA, the Korea Program for International cooperation in Agricultural technology (KOPIA), the Korean Education Center in Bishkek.

According to the Ministry of Education and Science of Kyrgyzstan, about 65 educational institutions teach the Korean language in Kyrgyzstan. In this regard, we are interested in educational exchanges and creating favorable opportunities for young people of Kyrgyzstan to study in Korean universities.

With this purpose, the Embassy promotes the establishment of ties between Kyrgyz and Korean educational institutes and universities.

Various Korean non-governmental organizations, such as Good Neighbors International and other NGOs, are interested in realizations of social projects in the Kyrgyz Republic. 

We would like to cooperate with the Republic of Korea in almost all areas of activity. Especially in the current difficult times due to the COVID-19 pandemic in such areas as healthcare and education.


Q: Please state your opinions with regard to Korea-the Kyrgyz desirable cooperative development projects in various industry areas, including infrastructure constructions, etc.

A: The Kyrgyz Republic proposes to the Korean side to realize any projects, including the smart city, IT, renewable energy, construction of hydropower stations, modernization and construction of airports and railroads, hospitals, and tourism infrastructure.

Recently we also are discussing with Korean companies the projects on smart city, diagnosis centers, hotel, golf, and ski resorts industry.

Yeo studied German in Seoul. He has worked as a journalist for the past 40 years. He has mostly covered diplomacy, foreign schools, regional festivals, culture and other areas. He can be reached at hyeo7832@gmail.com or 82-2-6956-6698.