It will be the fifth visit to Korea by the Uzbekistani leader since both countries have established diplomatic relations in 1992. South Korean presidents have visited Uzbekistan twice: Kim Young-sam in 1994 and Roh Moo-hyun in 2005.
At the last summit meeting between Presidents Roh Moo-hyun and Islam Karimov in Cheong Wa Dae on March 29 2007, the two leaders agreed to develop the relationship of cooperation between the two countries to a ’one step higher level,’ having signed a Korea-Uzbekistan Joint Communique on establishing a strategic partnership between the two countries.
Korea and Uzbekistan successfully cooperate in political, economic and cultural areas, and also on the international arena. During his last visit to Korea in 2006 President Karimov deeply impressed the Korean people by expressing his support for Secretary General Ban Ki-mun of the United Nations at a meeting with Speaker Kim Won-ki of the National Assembly, having told that it was about time the U.N. Secretary General had come from Asia.
He praised the then Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Ban Ki-moon as a truly qualified diplomat who was best suited for the top U.N. job. At the time, President Karimov was only the second Head of State who publicly supported Korea for the highest post of the U.N., after President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt.
President-elect Lee Myung-bak and President Islam Karimov have many things in common, including the fact that both leaders have achieved landslide victories in the presidential elections in the two countries last December and both of them start their new term as President in early 2008.
They are both well-known in the political world as leaders with immeasurable charisma, driving force, initiative and strong ambition for a fast economic development and alleviation of the status and role of their country in the world. They also both have a market-economy political background assuring their people a sense of security, stability and rapid economic growth.
They have a very close personal relationship which has been established since late March 2006, when Islam Karimov visited Seoul. Then Seoul City Mayor Lee Myung-bak awarded President Karimov an Honorary Citizenship of the Seoul City for his great input to promoting the friendship between the two countries’ people.
In conclusion I would like once again to welcome the visit of President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan to Korea and express my confidence that the strategic partnership and friendship between the two countries with an inauguration of Lee Myung-bak as the new President of Korea will further develop for the good of both countries’ people.
By Lee Man-seop
Former Speaker of National Assembly
Published by The Korea Times