PM Han Reaps Bountiful
Fruit in Resources Diplomacy

His success is owed to an outstanding career, strong abilities

Prime Minister Han Seung-soo has successfully carried out the much-touted resources diplomacy in his recent visits to a number of countries in Central Asia. The accomplishment is significant as the nation mostly depends on energy supply from overseas channels.
Han said he recognizes the importance of setting up close human relations with the heads of state of other countries in bids toward resources diplomacy.
For instance, Uzbek President Karimov spared no efforts to help realize energy cooperation with Korea as he has been maintaining a friendly stance toward Korea since he attended the inauguration ceremony of President Lee Myung-bak.
In response, Han visited Samarkand, Uzbekistan, which is the hometown of the head of state with the goal of throwing support behind the Uzbek leader.
Domestically, Karimov has been suffering growing resistance from his political opponents raising issues of the alleged corruption in the government sector as a result of his persisting to stay in power through the incumbent government leaders.
South Korean companies have signed contracts worth $530 million in Azerbaijan, the last stop of Prime Minister Han's visit to the nations of Central Asia and Eastern Europe, according to Korean government officials on May 19. Premier Han visited with Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev and called on the country to open the door wider for Korean firms to help accelerate that nation's economic development.
On the sidelines of the meeting, executives of South Korean firms accompanying Han signed contracts to build railroads, shipyards and other social and industrial infrastructure and to develop natural resources.
An official at the Ministry of Knowledge and Economy said that Azerbaijan is currently undertaking various projects to enhance its infrastructure on orders from President Aliyev. "Han's visit is expected to pave the way for South Korean firms to obtain more business opportunities and form stronger ties with the Eurasian nation."With Han and ranking Azerbaijani officials on hand, Kolon and Azersun, Azerbaijan's largest private company, held a signing ceremony for their joint $270 million project to build a business and resort complex called "Dream Island."Korea Land Corp. also signed a $33 million deal to participate in a project to build a government complex, while SK E&C, Daewoo International and other Korean firms also signed contracts to begin business projects in Azerbaijan.
In the area of energy development, Korea National Oil Corp. struck a deal with Azerbaijan's state-owned oil firms to develop oil fields. Over the next three years, the two countries will spend 1 billion won to conduct joint explorations of the Caucasus area, which has large reserves of gold, silver, lead and other metals, an official said.
Han returned home on May 20, after winding up his 10-day trip.
Han visited Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan, where he held talks with ranking government officials to find ways to promote economic cooperation. Seoul hopes to have more opportunities in the development of oil and gas fields and exploration of mineral resources in the countries. Han is probably the most suitable person to carry out resources diplomacy given his successful career and abilities. He is an economist by training while accumulating experience in shaping foreign, industrial and trade policies as a member of the Cabinet under the previous governments. Moreover, he has garnered vehement support from President Lee Myung-bak in his diplomatic endeavors. As a matter of fact, the post of prime minister used to be a sinecure under the Korean system of government. As such, a prime minister's overseas tour was more often than not just a junket under the guise of diplomacy.
Unlike many of his predecessors, however, Han is expected to help Korean businesses make deals abroad, with President Lee Myung-bak throwing his weight behind him. When selecting Han as his first prime minister, Lee said, "The prime minister will conduct resources diplomacy in the world markets."Proving the significance of Han's visit for energy diplomacy, a group of 64 business leaders accompanied him, with many of them successfully striking deals for economic cooperation with local concerns.
A growing number of countries have begun to join the race to grasp the resources initiatives in the Central Asian region. There has been a growing call for being cautious in adopting the high-profile resources diplomacy as such an approach will result in raising the relevant costs.
Some experts cite the need to conduct low-key efforts in a more pragmatic approach to secure resources from a mid-and long-term perspective.
They say such pragmatic diplomacy is in line with the policies being pursued by President Lee. nw

Prime Minister Han Seung-soo explains the outcome of his recent visit to Central Asia.

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