By the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in Ashgabat
This year is the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic relations between the Republic of Korea and Turkmenistan and the meaningful official visit by the Chairman of the Halk Maslakhaty of the Milli Gengesh of Turkmenistan, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, was taken place successfully on 27~30 November this year.
In fact, the two countries made close contacts via Silk Road for more than 1000 years although geographically they are about 6,000 km apart from each other. Goguryeo, an ancient Korean kingdom located in the northern part of the Korean Peninsula, had active interaction with Turks. They are known to have shared similar dance choreography and exchanged envoys of each other. The cultural heritage our two countries share, including sedentary lifestyle, large family, respect for elders, hospitality toward guests, bowing, etc., seem to have come from this long historical background. Both Korean and Turkmen languages also belong to same Altai language group.
Fast-forwarding to the present, the two countries have strengthened and deepened bilateral relations over the last 30 years through close high-level and people-to-people exchanges. As the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in Turkmenistan opened in June 2007, the bilateral relationship was upgraded to a Mutually Beneficial Partnership after two summit meetings were held in the year 2008 alone. From 2010 onwards, our cooperation in economic and industrial sectors has advanced substantially through the construction of energy plants and infrastructure by Korean companies in Turkmenistan. Especially in 2015, when President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov visited Korea, Korean companies were awarded over 5 billion US dollars’ worth of contracts by Turkmenistan. The cumulative amount of contracts until 2017 between Korean companies and Turkmenistan reached 10 billion US dollars in total.
Kiyanly Chemical Complex in Turkmenbashi symbolizes the close economic ties between the two countries. The plant worth 3.4 billion US dollars was built without a single accident by an international consortium led by Korea’s Hyundai Engineering Company. More than 120 Korean companies and 5,000 workers took part in the construction which was completed in October 2018. Meanwhile, one of the Korean companies, Hyundai Corporation, have exported thousands of buses to Turkmenistan. One can find many Hyundai buses driving on the roads in Ashgabat. In this way, Korean companies have been and will be contributing to the economic development of Turkmenistan. They are interested not only in energy plants and infrastructure, but also in seawater desalination, fertilizer plant and establishment of Intelligent Transport System in New Ashgabat city.
In 2019 Korean President Moon Jae-In visited Turkmenistan, which set a milestone for further strengthening the bilateral relationship. During the summit, the two leaders have agreed to expand the fields of cooperation to various areas, including transportation, health and medical care, textile, forestry, ICT, territorial information system, and cultural sectors. These commitments have been realized one by one. For example, Vocational Training School for Gas Industry was built in September 2020, Information Access Center was completed in February this year in Ashgabat by Korean support, and Textile Industry Technology Sharing Seminars have been held regularly on the annual basis. Next spring, 240 trainees are expected to graduate from the above-mentioned Vocational Training School. They will make a great contribution to developing Turkmen economy and play a bridging role to strengthen bilateral ties. Next year the 9th intergovernmental commission on trade, economic, scientific and technological cooperation and the 5th business council between the two countries will be held in Seoul or Ashgabat and Turkmenistan will host the 16th Korea-Central Asia Cooperation Forum in Ashgabat in November 2023, which will strengthen the bilateral ties further.
There is a saying ‘a friend in need is a friend indeed’. The two countries have developed and maintained a close cooperation even under the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. The Korean government has supported Turkmenistan with medication and sanitary equipment. Public-private cooperation were also carried out, with Korea’s Kyungbuk National University sharing its system of countering COVID-19 pandemic to the Ministry of Health and Medical Industry of Turkmenistan over a video conference.
Now the tedious pandemic is gradually coming to its end. It is high time that the two countries could bolster their economic cooperation. Against this backdrop, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, Chairman of the Halk Maslakhaty of Milli Gengesh of Turkmenistan, invited by the speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Korea Kim Jin Pyo, had made an official visit to Korea on 27-30 November 2022 for the third time. His visit was very successful in that he has had a meeting with President Yoon Suk-Yeul, bilateral meeting with Speaker of the National Assembly Kim Jin Pyo, business consultation with Korean businessmen and signing of 7 Memoranda of Understanding.
The bilateral relations between the two countries have developed in the cultural sphere as well. Recently Korean culture – currently represented by K-pop, Korean movies and dramas – is gaining widespread popularity across the world, and Turkmenistan is not an exception. Soaring popularity and interest for Korean culture is now prevalent in Turkmenistan and those who learn Korean language and culture are also increasing.
The King Sejong Institute in Ashgabat has students tripled in numbers since its establishment in 2019, with this year creating a class for advanced level students for the first time. A Korean language teacher was also dispatched from Korea this April. The Korean language program in number 88 secondary school in Ashgabat, which also began in 2019, has seen its students quadruple in numbers over the past 3 years. Similarly, the division of Korean Language Studies of Turkmen National Institute of World Languages named after D. Azadi established in 2008, is currently on the verge of reaching its 100th graduate milestone. These students who have deep affection for Korean culture and learn Korean will take a critical role in fostering greater interaction bilaterally.
In addition, this year the 10th Ambassador’s Cup Taekwondo Competition in July and Korean National Foundation Day Reception in October were resumed in 3 years. During the Korean Cultural Days on 9-11 November 2022, the Korean Embassy presented a variety of cultural events such as Korean Movie Festival, Korean food tasting, and the trial of Korean traditional costume ‘Hanbok’, along with the orchestral fusion concert of Korean traditional music ‘Gugak’. During the concert, the Turkmen State Symphony Orchestra also joined and made the Korea-Turkmen joint performance. The songs and music of our brotherhood and friendship resonated across Turkmenistan in celebration of the 30 years of our diplomatic ties. This beautiful harmony is a testament for the ever-growing relationship between Korea and Turkmenistan over the past 30 years and also indicates that our friendship will keep flourishing for another 30 years to come. ///nCa, 10 December 2022