Kazakh Ambassador to Korea Darkhan Berdaliyev
By Kim Se-jeong
His older sister has done it. So have her friends, friends of his wife and three of his own friends. "It" is double eyelid surgery, and they all flew to Korea to have the operation.
Kazakhstan Ambassador to Korea Darkhan Berdaliyev proudly said the trips were thanks to his personal promotion.
"Korean hospitals are good. They are so popular in Kazakhstan that people want to come here for that," the second-term ambassador told The Korea Times during an interview.
Plastic surgery, in particular, is a selling point.
For Berdaliyev, it has become a daily routine to meet fellow Kazakhs who come to Korea to seek medical treatment.
"I would like to promote it wholeheartedly, because I myself have gone several times to hospitals here when I fell ill, and it (the care) was so good."
Korean medical services are available back home in Kazakhstan, he said.
The Keimyung University Dongsan Hospital in Daegu opened a hospital in 1995 in Almaty, the biggest city in the country.
The facility is now fully operated by local doctors and nurses ― 16 in total ― who have undergone years of training, and Dongsan Hospital sends a medical missionary team consisting of pharmacists, nurses and doctors there twice a year.
This has become a seed for a special relationship that his country has with Daegu and Keimyung University Hospital.
Almaty and Daegu have become sister cities. The ambassador is on the list of VIPs at the hospital.
This week a group of dancers, musicians and artists are coming to Korea for a three-day cultural festival.
The mayor of Almaty, Akhmetzhan Smaghululy Yesimov, is also flying in to watch the activities, and more importantly to sign a memorandum of understanding with the hospital on cooperation in transfering technology and services.
The ambassador is also an active advocate for Korean soap operas.
In the early 2000s, Korean soap operas first entered the Kazakhstan market, gaining instant popularity.
"They got so popular, especially among teenagers," he said.
"Although they have never been to Korea, they know about Korean so much better than me sometimes."
On the economic front, he does the opposite. He has kept a strong focus on convincing Korean investors to come to his country.
So far, Kazakhstan has successfully appealed to Samsung C&T, Korea National Oil Corporation, LG Electronics, SK, Hyundai Motors, Ssangyong and Woolim Construction.
Besides, many other Korean construction firms are investing money in building apartments in the cities.
Opening the Kazakhstan Chamber of Commerce in April has added support to the drive.
Korea is the fifth country where an overseas chamber of commerce of Kazakhstan has opened.
The ambassador reminded people of the "Year of Korea" and "Year of Kazakhstan," an agreement between the two presidents during the last year's summit in Kazakhstan.
President Lee Myung-bak and Nursultan Abishuly Nazarbayev have agreed to designate this year the "Year of Kazakhstan" in Korea and next year the "Year of Korea" in Kazakhstan.
Korea - Kazakh relations began in the mid 1990s when the central Asian country was very young.
Samsung pioneered in investing in the weak economy, having poured $ 200 million in copper mining and refining.
According to a report written by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the investment turned out to be a successful one, and Samsung is until now commended by Kazakhstan for paving the way for other investors.