Central Asian nation offers wealth of resources

kotra_ci_kotraALMATY ― A majority of Koreans would think of just the abundant natural resources when they are asked about business opportunities in Kazakhstan, one of the world’s biggest oil exporters.

However, the leader of the Korea Trade Investment Promotion Agency’s (KOTRA) operation in Almaty, the most populous Kazak city with the biggest economy, comes up with a different suggestion.

Lim Chae-keun, who has headed KOTRA’s Korea Business Center in the southern Kazak city for more than a year, claims that Korean companies or entrepreneurs should scrap the blind pursuit of natural resource development here ― and look to see other genuine chances and potential.

“Once, Almaty was crowded with as many as 8,000 Koreans. After lots of them left without much success, the figure dipped to some 1,500 today. But the country is still full of opportunities,’’ Lim said.

“Korean companies or individuals have mostly tried to hit the jackpot through big one-off events mostly related to natural resources, but such an approach failed to generate tangible results. That was a problem. We need to adopt more realistic strategies.’’

Lim picked bilateral trade as a potential-laden and lucrative segment for Korean businessmen as amply demonstrated by the rocketing amounts of transactions between the two countries.

Korea exported items to Kazakhstan worth $527.3 million in 2010, up 41.02 percent from the previous year, while the former’s imports also jumped 76.81 percent year-on-year to $232.9 million.

The upward trend is expected to continue. “Our companies do not have the luxury of losing opportunities here. They are strongly recommended to tap into the Kazakh market,’’ he said.

Asked about the natural resource development schemes by Koreans, the 45-year-old said that they are important but they have to be carried out from a long-term perspective rather than a viewpoint geared toward short-term profits.

“Developing natural resources like oil is very significant but it takes quite a long time. Yet, Koreans tend to be too impatient. They have to set up blueprints for the long haul so that they will be able to rack up good results in this natural resource-rich country.’’

In territory of 2.7 million square kilometers, Kazakhstan boasts the world’s 11th largest reserves of oil at up to 30 billion barrels.

As new large-sized reserves are expected to be discovered near the Caspian Sea, Kazakhstan is likely to gain more prominence in producing “black gold.’’

It is also a global runner-up in terms of reserves of tungsten and chrome, and No. 3 in those of copper.

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