Kazakhstan–South Korea relations are the international relations between Kazakhstan and the Republic of Korea, commonly known as South Korea.
Diplomatic relations between the two countries were established on January 28, 1992, shortly after Kazakhstan's independence. Bilateral relations have grown steadily since that time. Cooperation between the two nations has grown in political, economic, and educational spheres. The presence of 100,000 ethnic Koreans living in Kazakhstan (known as Koryo-saram) creates an additional link between the two countries.
South Korea and Kazakhstan formally established diplomatic relations in January 1992. Soon thereafter South Korea opened its embassy in Almaty, and in 1996 Kazakhstan opened its embassy in Seoul.
Kazakhstani president Nursultan Nazarbayev has made two official visits to South Korea, in 1995 and 2003. In 2004, South Korean president Roh Moo Hyun visited Kazakhstan. His successor, Lee Myung-bak, visited Kazakhstan in 2009. Low-level officials, including ministers and mayors, make regular visits between the two countries.
Since independence, South Korea and Kazakhstan have witnessed deepening economics ties, as Kazakhstan has become South Korea's most important trading partner in Central Asia. Korean business have invested more than $2 billion in Kazakhstan, and South Korean investors have assets in more than 300 companies in Kazakhstan. Recently Kookmin Bank, one of South Korea's largest banks, purchased a 30% stake in Kazakhstan's CenterCredit Bank for about $634 million.
South Korea's major exports to Kazakhstan include automobiles, televisions, and other electronics. Kazakh exports primarily raw materials, including copper and zinc, to South Korea.
Korean companies are also involved in Kazakhstan's oil industry. The Korean Consortium of the Caspian Oil Project, which is led by the Korea National Oil Company and includes SK Corporation, LG International, Samsung, and Daesung Industrial, is involved in the development of the Zhambyl oil field, located in the Caspian Sea. Under the agreement, the consortium will own 27% of drilling rights, with the option to purchase up to 50% of the rights, depending on what is found after further exploration. The field is estimated to hold 1 billion barrels of crude oil.
In May 2009 the two countries signed an agreement for Korean investments in Kazakhstan's energy and technology sectors totaling over $5 billion. The agreement includes a $2.5 billion investment by South Korean companies in a new power plant in southern Kazakhstan. The two companies, Korea Electric Power Corporation and Samsung C&T will own 65% of the plant, which is scheduled for completion by 2014.
In 2005 the Association for Kazakhstan Studies in Korea (AKSK) was founded in response to South Korean president Roh's visit to Kazakhstan. The association aims to improve bilateral relations between the two countries as well as improve academic study of the different ethnicities in Kazakhstan.
In the late 1930s thousands of Koreans in the Soviet Union were deported to Central Asia, supposedly to prevent further Japanese espionage. These people are now known as Koryo-sarams. It is estimated that 100,000 ethnic Koreans still live in the territory of Kazakhstan. The presence of these ethnic Koreans helps to strengthen ties between the two countries.