08ASTANA282, Kazakhstani Koreans Wield Disproportionate Influence

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08ASTANA282 2008-02-08 02:29 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Astana


DE RUEHTA #0282/01 0390229
R 080229Z FEB 08

E.O. 12958: N/A 
SUBJECT:  Kazakhstani Koreans Wield Disproportionate Influence 
1. (SBU) Summary: Kazakhstan's ethnic Korean minority has made great 
strides in the country's business and political spheres since 
independence, with a number of them holding influential positions. 
The success Kazakhstani Koreans have achieved in the post-Soviet era 
is a product of their higher rates of urbanization and education as 
well as their role as facilitators for South Korean investment. 
While members of other minority groups emigrated from Kazakhstan in 
large numbers during the 1990's, few ethnic Koreans chose to do so, 
and Kazakhstan became a destination for ethnic Koreans emigrating 
from elsewhere in Central Asia.   End Summary. 
Koreans in Kazakhstan 
2. (U) An estimated 100,000 ethnic Koreans -- about 0.7 percent of 
the country's population -- reside today in Kazakhstan.  Like many 
of Kazakhstan's minority communities, ethnic Koreans came to inhabit 
Kazakhstan as the result of Stalinist-era deportations.  In 1937, 
the mass resettlement of Koreans living in the Russian Far East was 
ordered on the pretense that they posed a security risk to the 
Soviet Union during a period of tensions Korea's colonial master, 
Imperial Japan. 
3. (U) Kazakhstani Koreans were assimilated into ethnic Russian -- 
rather than ethnic Kazakh -- culture during the Soviet era.  Today, 
most speak only Russian and only the elderly still have knowledge of 
Korean.  According to Alexander Kim, the Chairman of the Astana 
branch of the Association of Koreans in Kazakhstan, marriages 
between Koreans and non-Koreans are common and carry no social 
stigma.  Today, no evidence of tensions between Koreans and Kazakhs 
or any other group in this multi-ethnic society is readily 
Influence Greater Than Numbers 
4. (SBU) Ethnic Koreans hold a disproportionately large presence in 
Kazakhstan's business sphere.  Ethnic Kazakhs sometimes refer to 
Kazakhstani Koreans as the "tortinshi zhuz," i.e., "the fourth 
horde," because of their influence and propensity for supporting 
each other. (Comment: Ethnic Kazakhs are divided into three hordes 
or "zhuzes," the Great Horde or Uli Zhuz, the Middle Horde or Orta 
Zhuz, and the Small Horde or Kishi Zhuz.  End Comment.)  According 
to Professor German Kim, a leading expert on the Korean diaspora in 
the former Soviet Union, Kazakhstani Koreans are often stereotyped 
by other Kazakhstanis as being generally affluent. 
5. (U) Several Kazakhstani Koreans are particularly noteworthy 
figures in the country's business and political spheres.  For 
instance, Vladimir Kim and Vladimir Ni are close associates of 
President Nazarbayev and serve on the board of Kazakhmys, 
Kazakhstan's largest copper mining company.  Victor Tsoi heads the 
Ak Ayul construction company, one of Kazakhstan's largest, and was 
elected as a deputy to the Majilis -- the lower chamber of 
Kazakhstan's parliament --- in September 2007.  Oleg Nam is 
currently the Chairman of the Board of Kuat, a large construction 
company hit hard by the reverberations of the global financial 
crisis.  The previous Kuat chairman, Yuriy Tckhay, is also a 
Kazakhstani Korean.  Tckhay is currently the President of Caspian 
Bank and since 1999 as been the Chairman of the Political Council of 
the ruling Nur Otan (previously Otan) party. Finally, Georgiy Kim 
served as Kazakhstan's Minister of Justice during 2002-03 and since 
2004 has been the Deputy Procurator General. 
Roots of Success 
6. (SBU) Higher rates of education and urbanization among 
Kazakhstani Koreans during the Soviet period left members of this 
group well-position to prosper in a market economy.  According to 
Professor German Kim, Soviet Koreans were twice as likely to obtain 
a higher education as the population in general.  Moreover, 
Kazakhstani Koreans were -- and continue to be -- concentrated in 
cities.  This has allowed them to take advantage of Kazakhstan's 
hydrocarbon-driven economic boom which has spurred dramatic economic 
growth in urban areas over the last decade, but left behind much of 
rural Kazakhstan. 
7. (SBU) Investments in Kazakhstan by South Korean companies have 
also benefited Kazakhstani Koreans.  When South Korean companies 
first entered Kazakhstan in the early 1990's, local Koreans often 
served as the foundation for their investment projects, according to 
Chungho Tae, a Second Secretary from the South Korean Embassy in 
Kazakhstan.  Many Kazakhstani Koreans went to work for South Korean 
firms, gaining valuable business experience and an understanding of 
modern business practices.  Furthermore, many South Korean 
multinationals developed business relationships with local 
Kazakhstani Korean-owned companies, assisting the survival and 
development of those firms in the pivotal years of economic shocks 
in t
he 1990's.  However, as Kazakhstani Korean companies become more 
confident, they are no longer satisfied with the subordinate 
position they once held and are increasingly insisting on dealing 
with South Korean companies on even terms, according to Jong-mun 
Won, a First Secretary from the South Korean Embassy. 
Here to Stay 
8. (SBU) While many of Kazakhstan's ethnic Russians and Germans been 
able to take advantage of laws in Russia and Germany which have 
facilitated their emigration from Kazakhstan, no such option is 
available to Kazakhstani Koreans.  According to Yang Goo Lee, the 
head of the South Korean Embassy's Astana office, his government's 
policy is not to encourage their immigration to South Korea, but 
rather to promote their retention of their language and culture in 
Kazakhstan.  Alexander Kim of the Association of Koreans in 
Kazakhstan added that Kazakhstani Koreans have not been able to 
immigrate to South Korea because of that country's rather onerous 
requirements to obtain residency. In any case, he contended, 
Kazakhstani Koreans are not interested in emigrating. 
9. (SBU) Kazakhstan has also become a destination for ethnic Koreans 
emigrating from elsewhere in Central Asia.  The first wave of ethnic 
Korean immigrants arrived in the 1990's as refugees from the Civil 
War in Tajikistan and in recent years they have been joined by 
Uzbekistani Koreans attracted by the prospect of economic 
opportunities in Kazakhstan.  Members of these groups, like other 
impoverished immigrants to Kazakhstan, are more likely to face 
levels of discrimination which their ethnic kin native to Kazakhstan 
have so far not encountered, according to Professor German Kim. 
10. (SBU) Kazakhstani Koreans perceive that ethnic Kazakh 
nationalism is on the rise and could some day threaten the great 
strides their community has made to succeed in the post-Soviet 
world.  They are heavily supportive of President Nazarbayev in part 
because they see him as a reliable bulwark against Kazakh 
nationalism.    In a country where economic success is frequently 
dependent on government connections -- or at least the absence of 
state interference -- Kazakhstani Koreans remain concerned about a 
post-Nazarbayev era, and the prospects that a successor 
administration could be inclined to more aggressively promote the 
interests of Kazakhs over Koreans and other minority groups.  End 


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