Shown above is a bird’s eye view of Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan. Photo courtesy of Uzbek Embassy in Seoul

H.E. Vitali Fen says Uzbekistan and South Korea are becoming special strategic partners

The Korea News Plus had an interview with Uzbek Amb. H.E. Vitali Fen in time with the Sept. 1 Independence of the country. The interview covered such topics as current bilateral ties between South Korea and Uzbekistan, its prospect in the years to come, the significance of the 30th anniversary of Uzbekistan’s independence, and more specifically, the 29th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Uzbekistan and the Republic of Korea. _ ED.


Q: Dear Vitaliy Fen, our conversation is taking place on the eve of the 30th anniversary of Uzbekistan’s independence and the 29th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Uzbekistan and the Republic of Korea. Traditionally, on the eve of this occasion, the results of achievements in various fields are summed up. Today Uzbekistan and South Korea are special strategic partners. What is the peculiarity of this relationship?

A: The foundation for the development of bilateral relations between our states was laid on December 30, 1991, when the Republic of Korea was among the first to recognize the independence of Uzbekistan.

Diplomatic relations were established on January 29, 1992. Since that moment, an active political dialogue has been conducted between the two states, as evidenced by the 16 summit meetings held over this 28-year period.

The regular dialogue between the leaders of two countries, which has become one of the distinguished features of Uzbek-South Korean relations, plays a key role in the consistent promotion and deepening of bilateral cooperation.

On Nov. 22-24, 2017, President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev paid his first state visit to the Republic of Korea at the invitation of the President of the Republic of Korea Moon Jae-in.

The historic state visit of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev to the Republic of Korea was comprehensively fruitful and identified new prospects for mutually beneficial cooperation between the two countries.

The reciprocal visit of President Moon Jae-in to Uzbekistan on April 18-21, 2019, which can rightfully be called historical and unique in spirit, should be especially emphasized.

All this is confirmed by the signing by the two presidents of the Joint Declaration on a special strategic partnership between the Republic of Uzbekistan and the Republic of Korea.

Following the results of the business forums held with the participation of the two presidents within the framework of these summits, investment agreements amounting to $ 22 billion were signed. In general, the visits by both sides were assessed at the highest level.

Despite the conditions of the pandemic, in the first half of 2021, an active dialogue was maintained at the high and the highest levels. The main event in the political sphere of bilateral relations was the first online summit held on January 28 of this year, between the presidents of Uzbekistan and the Republic of Korea, which made it possible to comprehensively analyze the current state of cooperation and outline promising directions for its further deepening.

During the virtual meeting, Shavkat Mirziyoyev expressed gratitude to Moon Jae-in for the practical support extended to Uzbekistan in the prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation of people who have had coronavirus infection.

The presidents agreed to continue regular political consultations and intensify inter-parliamentary exchanges, prepare a program of bilateral events to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

As a result of the summit, a memorandum of cooperation in the field of digitalization to promote the “fourth industrial revolution,” an agreement on the implementation of a three-year program with the EDCF in the amount of $1 billion, loan agreements for construction projects of a multidisciplinary clinic and a Chemical Technology Center were signed.

At the level of leading companies, agreements have been signed on the modernization of energy infrastructure facilities in Uzbekistan.

President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev, on May 30 of this year, at the invitation of the President of the Republic of Korea Moon Jae-in took part in the second international summit “Partnership for Green Growth and Global Goals – 2030” (P4G), held in Seoul via videoconference.

The agenda of the two-day forum included issues of overcoming the consequences of climate change, “green” recovery, and ensuring carbon neutrality, as well as the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the implementation of the provisions of the Paris Agreement on climate change.

In his speech, Shavkat Mirziyoyev said that overcoming the global consequences of the Aral Sea disaster was identified as one of the priority tasks.

In this regard, he thanked all international partners for their full support of the special resolution of the UN General Assembly adopted at the initiative of Uzbekistan on declaring the Aral Sea region – a zone of environmental innovations and technologies.

The head of state proposed to continue active joint work in this direction, including with the specially created UN Trust Fund, the Global Green Growth Institute, on the platform of the P4G partnership, and other international institutions.

Uzbekistan reaffirmed its readiness to fulfill commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 under the Paris Agreement.

In this regard, the head of state noted that the widespread introduction of “green” technologies and the implementation of projects in the field of “green” energy in Uzbekistan would allow increasing the share of renewable energy sources by more than three times in the next ten years.

Shavkat Mirziyoyev put forward an initiative to hold an international conference, “Green Energy for Developing Countries,” in 2022, as well as launch a special program to attract young people to create a “green” economy to form a culture of green consumption.

To expand practical cooperation in this important area, the President announced Uzbekistan’s readiness to join the P4G partnership and become its full-fledged participant.


Q:  How are the agreements on cooperation between the law enforcement agencies of Uzbekistan and South Korea reflected in practice in the fight against terrorism, extremism, human trafficking, drug trafficking, cybercrime, and public safety?

A: First of all, I would like to note that recently there has been a significant activation of interaction between the law enforcement agencies of the two countries in a wide range of areas of mutual interest.

Over the past and current year alone, a large number of mutual visits of delegations, including heads of law enforcement agencies of the two countries, have been organized.

Based on the results of the meetings and negotiations, a number of interdepartmental documents were signed on the further intensification of interaction between the law enforcement agencies of the two countries. Plans for cooperation were also concluded to provide for concrete, practical steps for further cooperation.

Within the framework of the agreements reached on cooperation between the law enforcement agencies of the two countries, direct working contacts have been established, which make it possible to interact and exchange information in around-the-clock and operational mode in the fight against terrorism, extremism, human trafficking, drug trafficking, cybercrime, and public safety.

In addition, working meetings of law enforcement specialists of the two countries are held on a regular basis, within the framework of which the parties exchange experience in the most needed areas.

The established communication channels have repeatedly confirmed their effectiveness, a clear example of which is the prompt identification of the criminals wanted in the two countries, their arrest, and subsequent transfer to law enforcement agencies.

Also, the Korean side regularly conducts seminars and master classes on combating cybercrime and the use of modern information technologies in ensuring public safety for specialists of law enforcement agencies of Uzbekistan.

The law enforcement agencies of Uzbekistan draw the most advanced methods and directions from the Korean work experience and actively introduce them into their daily activities.

At the same time, I would like to note that the Korean side also has a considerable interest in the experience of the law enforcement agencies of Uzbekistan, in particular in the field of combating terrorism and extremism.

Taking into account the extensive experience of Uzbek specialists in this area, the Korean side has repeatedly taken seminars on the experience of Uzbekistan’s law enforcement agencies in this area.

 In general, we can say with confidence that the high level of interaction achieved to date between the law enforcement agencies of the two countries will continue to develop intensively for the benefit of ensuring the safety of citizens of Uzbekistan and the Republic of Korea.


Q: What is being done to familiarize the Korean public with the rich cultural and educational heritage of the Uzbek people?

A: It is well known that the contribution of scientists of the Uzbek land to the development of world civilization is priceless, and the list of world-famous names is huge.

It is impossible to imagine modern science without the outstanding works of Abu Ali Ibn Sina, Beruniy, Al-Khorezmi, Ulugbek, the outstanding religious texts of Imam Al-Bukhari, Naqshbandi, Termizi, and Maturidi made an invaluable contribution to Islamic science and culture, and the literary masterpieces of Nakhshera Babur is admired to this day.

And today we are carrying out purposeful work to further familiarize the Korean public with the rich cultural and spiritual wealth of the Uzbek people.

In this context, I would like to note that, despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, cultural cooperation between Uzbekistan and South Korea is developing very actively since it is an important component of interaction between our countries, which is given great importance at the state level in both countries, because history friendly relations between our peoples dates back to the era of the Great Silk Road, as evidenced by the frescoes in the Afrasiab Museum, which depict the ambassadors of the Goguryeo state at a reception with the ruler of Samarkand at the end of the seventh century.

In past years, before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, representatives of our countries regularly took part in various cultural events held in Uzbekistan and South Korea.

In particular, in 2019, cultural figures of the Republic of Korea participated in the Sharq Taronalari International Music Festival in Samarkand, the Hunarmand International Festival of Folk and Applied Arts in Kokand and other events, and Days culture of Uzbekistan with the organization of a national pavilion and demonstration of samples of domestic applied and fine arts, a photo exhibition, as well as a concert with the participation of art workers of Uzbekistan.

In the capital of South Korea, “Navruz in Seoul” festival is annually hosted, which can already be called traditional. If earlier the event was directly attended by a large number of residents and guests of the capital, now, in connection with the coronavirus, the festival is mainly held online, which, however, does not lead to a decrease in interest in it.

So, in March-April of this year, together with the Secretariat of the Cooperation Forum “Republic of Korea – Central Asia,” another spring holiday was held – “Navruz in Seoul – 2021.”

Within the framework of the festival, online and offline photo exhibitions, a song contest in the Uzbek language and national dances, a screening of the national film “Rangsiz Tushlar,” a culinary show about Uzbek pilaf, and thematic TV programs about the traditions of our country were organized. All this aroused the genuine interest of the South Korean public.

I would also like to note that at present, active work is underway to create a monument to the great Uzbek educator and poet Alisher Navoi, which will be installed in one of the central squares of the Socho district of Seoul.

At the same time, work is underway to widely familiarize the Korean public with the tourist attractions of Uzbekistan. Over the past year, more than 20 video materials about the tourism potential of Uzbekistan were broadcast on leading South Korean TV channels such as KBS, BBS, and others.

The publication of articles and photographs in travel magazines, print, and electronic editions has been carried out. These materials talk about the great heritage of historical cities – Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva, Tashkent, resort areas, and other sights of Uzbekistan.


Q: According to statistics from the Korean Immigration Service, about 65,000 Uzbek citizens live in the country. How does the Embassy ensure the protection of the legal and social interests of citizens of Uzbekistan, as well as the provision of consular services to them in a pandemic?

A: The majority of the 65,000 of our citizens living in Korea are compatriots who carry out temporary labor migration (more than 12,000).

The total number of our compatriots in Korea can also include our ethnic Koreans and their family members (about 30,000), working in accordance with the benefits provided by the Korean government. Currently, approximately 10,000 of our young compatriots are studying in educational institutions in Korea.

Among our compatriots, a significant number are also entrepreneurs, professional workers (on the E-7 visa), and persons living for family reasons (have a marriage relationship).

The work of the Embassy in the field of protecting the legal and social interests of citizens is carried out in cooperation with the Representative Office of the External Migration Agency in Gwangju and the newly created Association of Uzbeks in Korea.

At present, memorandums have been signed with four law firms, one center support for foreign citizens, and one international organization. In accordance with these documents, work has been established to provide our citizens with preferential and high-quality legal services.

There are also agreements with three medical clinics and diagnostic centers that will allow our migrants to receive preferential and high-quality medical services.

This year, with the assistance of the international fund “ROTARY,” in Gwangju, we have established the activities of the center “UMID,” whose work will be aimed at providing social support to our citizens.

In this center, 14 of our citizens can simultaneously receive social support, who may lose their jobs and place of residence. In the near future, on the basis of this center, we plan to organize days of free medical examinations and legal consultations.

In addition, subject to the quarantine requirements, the Embassy holds meetings with citizens on a regular basis, both locally and online. Within the framework of the meetings, with the assistance of sponsors, our migrants and students are handed out national dishes and memorable gifts.

As a result of the sponsorship of our fellow entrepreneurs and the support of the Embassy, an amateur Uzbek football team was created in Inchon, which chalks up successful performances in various tournaments.

The provision of consular services to citizens is at a very good level than ever.

So, in connection with the pandemic, the provision of some types of consular services has been established remotely.

In order to save time and money for our citizens, in cooperation with the involved structures of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we have increased the number of interactive consular services, which contributes to the effective solution of problems that our compatriots may face.

Despite the pandemic, an increase in the types and number of services provided in 2020 and for the current period of 2021 (compared to 2019), indicates that the Embassy is conducting effective and correct work in this direction.


Q: Please tell us about the necessary conditions created for the Korean diaspora in Uzbekistan.

A: The Korean diaspora in Uzbekistan is an integral part of our society, which contributes to the construction of a modern and democratic state. Therefore, for many decades, Koreans have lived in Uzbekistan, who have made and continue to make their invaluable contribution to the development of our country and, at the same time, are a link in many cultural relations with South Korea.

It is the tolerance, generosity of the Uzbeks, the manifestation of good neighborliness, respect for the language, culture, religion of other peoples that played a decisive role in the fact that the Korean diaspora of Uzbekistan managed to preserve their national customs, traditions and language.

The Uzbek and Korean peoples have always supported each other in difficult times, and 180,000 representatives of the Korean diaspora living in Uzbekistan have become an integral part of our multinational and multi-confessional society.

In Uzbekistan, constant attention is paid to the Korean diaspora; care is shown to respect the Korean culture; and all the necessary conditions have been created for learning the native language and preserving the customs of Koreans.

Since Uzbekistan gained independence, representatives of many nationalities living on the territory of the republic were given the opportunity to study, preserve, and develop their language, culture, and spiritual heritage.

These rights are legalized and guaranteed by the Constitution of Uzbekistan. In January 1991, at the founding conference, an initiative group, which included prominent representatives of the Korean diaspora, came up with the idea of creating the first public organization of Koreans.

Subsequently, by the decisions taken at the conference, the main provisions of the charter were developed, the goals and objectives of the future organization were outlined, and its name was approved. Currently, the Association of Korean Cultural Centers operates in our country, which has subdivisions in the regions of the republic.

The goals and objectives of the Association of Korean Cultural Centers remain unchanged: unification of representatives of the Korean diaspora of Uzbekistan, introduction to the national culture, language and traditions, strengthening friendship, and harmony between representatives of peoples and nationalities living in Uzbekistan, inter-ethnic ties, mutual cooperation and mutual enrichment of national cultures.

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.