Flags of Uzbekistan and South Korea. In the background, the Earth is seen from space

Uzbekistan and South Korea to cooperate on space exploration

February saw a meeting between South Korea and Uzbekistan focusing on space exploration and exploitation for peaceful purposes. This meeting was one in a series of diplomatic gatherings showing Uzbekistan’s growing ambitions to travel to outer space.

A version of this article was originally published on Novastan’s French website on 22 February 2021.

Uzbekistan is establishing greater diplomatic cooperation with South Korea to launch peaceful space exploration.

As the Uzbek press agency Dunyo reported, representatives from the Uzbek embassy in South Korea met with members of the South Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) and the company SI Imaging Services on 15 February 2021. They discussed cooperation in space research and exploitation for peaceful purposes.

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The parties noted there had been progress despite the coronavirus pandemic. Several rounds of talks took place between experts from the Ministry of Science and Information and Communication Technologies of the Republic of Korea, KARI, the Ministry for the Development of Information Technologies and Communications of Uzbekistan and the Uzbek state space agency O’zbekkosmos. They have formed a working group to discuss further cooperation.

Representatives from both countries emphasised their intention to continue their cooperation and joint experiments, with a subsequent meeting of the working group expected to take place shortly, once again via videoconference.

A partnership with potential

The Uzbek-Korean space venture is part of a strategic partnership between the two countries, inaugurated when the South Korean president Moon Jae-In visited Central Asia in April 2019. This official visit also included Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.

Moon and his Uzbek counterpart, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, established bilateral relations and a strategic partnership by signing a series of agreements regarding “the promotion and mutual protection of investments, exploration of space for peaceful purposes, cooperation in science, technology and innovation, creation of the Uzbek-Korean center for cooperation in the health sector, among others” according to the official website of the Uzbek presidential administration. The cooperation will cost over 12 billion dollars (£8.7 billion).

The working group on space exploration and exploitation was created after this meeting. On 19 April 2019, the South Korean science minister You Young-Min and his Uzbek counterpart Shuxrat Sadikov signed a memorandum of understanding on bilateral cooperation in the space sector in the Uzbek capital, Tashkent.

Uzbekistan’s space ambitions

Uzbekistan is discussing space exploration projects with various states other than South Korea, including France, China and Kazakhstan.

Russia also aims to fulfill Uzbekistan’s space exploration ambitions. Russian media outlet Sputnik reported that Russia and Uzbekistan have prepared an agreement on space cooperation. According to the Russian ambassador in Uzbekistan Vladimir Tyurdenev, this document could be signed in 2021 during the next Russian-Uzbek bilateral summit.

Outer space is an important issue in Uzbek politics: the creation of the Uzbekkosmos agency by Shavkat Mirziyoyev in 2019 showed the country’s ambition to get back into this sector, active under the Soviet Union. For example, the Uzbek government is planning to launch its own communication satellites to improve digital communications, in cooperation with Kazakhstan.

Arnaud Muller

Translated from French by Alice Coveney

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