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Interview with AUCC Chairperson Carolyn Lamm Before 2012 Uzbekistan-US Annual Business Forum

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Park returns home from Central Asia trip

26 June 2014

President Park Geun-hye returned home Saturday from a three-nation trip to Central Asia focused mainly on expanding economic ties and winning support for her vision to tie Eurasian nations together through infrastructure development and trade.

The six-day trip to Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan led to the signing of a series of agreements calling for closer cooperation on major economic projects currently under way as well as new projects in areas ranging from energy and power to infrastructure and agriculture.

In Uzbekistan, Park and President Islam Karimov agreed to push for new joint projects in gas development and solar power.

The agreement, if realized, would lead to South Korean participation in a US$4 billion gas development project in the Bukhara region of central Uzbekistan, and in the construction of a 100 megawatt solar power plant in Uzbekistan's second-largest city of Samarkand.

During the visit to Kazakhstan, the two sides signed a contract under which the Kazakhstan Electricity Grid Operating Company will pay the South Korean side US$18.8 billion to buy all of the electricity generated from a coal-fired power plant to be built jointly in the southern Kazakh city of Balkhash.

In Turkmenistan, two memorandums of understanding (MOU) were signed on the construction of a $2 billion gas-chemical plant in the Seydi District of Lebap Province in northeastern Turkmenistan, and a refinery converting natural gas to liquid fuels such as kerosene and diesel. The gas-to-liquids project is worth $3 billion.

Park's visit to Central Asia came eight months after she proposed the "Eurasia initiative" as a key part of her administration's foreign policy agenda.

The initiative calls for building more infrastructure and freeing up trade between Eurasian nations to create what could become a large single market rivaling the European Union.

Closer economic cooperation could also foster peace on the Korean Peninsula and lay the groundwork for a "Silk Road Express" that connects South Korea to Europe via North Korea, China and Russia, among other nations.

In Kazakhstan, the two sides signed an MOU calling for South Korean participation in the modernization of Kazakhstan's railways, which could lay the foundation for the envisioned Silk Road Express.