Second Round of Korea-KZ Tax Forum: CATRC Visits South Korea 

A horde of thirteen students and two professors from the KIMEP Unicersity's Central Asian Tax Research Center (CATRC) invaded Seoul to participate in the second round of the Korea-Kazakhstan Tax Forum. Altogether, they spent seven days in the East Asian country, staying from the 12th to the 19th of May 2011.
The Korea-Kazakhstan Tax Forum is the result of joint cooperation between CATRC and the Korean International Tax Center (KITC) at the University of Seoul's Graduate School of Taxation. These research centers are led by Professor Tomas Balco (KIMEP) and Professor Hyejung Byun (the University of Seoul). The first round of the forum took place in Almaty from February 8th to the 9th, 2011. The objective of the forum was to establish a mutual relationship between these two tax research centers and use this connection to carry out comparative research of the two tax systems. Initial plans were made to study the complex tax issues arising from cross-border investment and transactions between Kazakhstan and Korea. In the end, the centers hoped to benefit the business community of both countries by presenting them their research.

For the second round of the the forum in Korea, the CATRC and KITC teams further strengthened their friendships while participating in two major academic events prepared by KITC. The first event was an international conference on “Transparent Entity Taxation: Developments in Central and East Asia.” It took place on the 13th of May and featured presentations from Professor Balco and Professor Vladimir Tyutyurykov.

Researchers from KITC and CATRC lead the second event – round two of the Korea-Kazakhstan Tax Forum. It took place from May 16 to May 17.

“The quality of the tax forum has been upgraded double compared to last year,” said Daum Jung, a participant from the University of Seoul. “The participation of students and their attitudes were very impressive. I also loved the open and scholastic atmosphere.”

For some students, the first day of the trip was the most memorable. After an overnight flight from Almaty, the CATRC team was met by friendly Korean students. As Assiya Yermukhametova, a research assistant in CATRC, said, “I was impressed by the level of hospitality from the students and professors of the University of Seoul. They organized a whole concert and welcome party for us.”

Indeed, the CATRC team was welcomed with a special program consisting of the performance of a rock band, solo singers, a piano performance, a magic show and other pieces. The show was led by KITC taxation students.  According to Assiya, “Our students really enjoyed the we time spent with the Korean researchers. We were involved in many interesting activities that made the Kazakhstan-Korea Tax Forum an even more unique event.”

The students spent the weekend exploring the city and having lots of fun. They went shopping, played traditional Korean games and attended sporting activities, all while finalizing their presentations for the tax forum.

On Sunday, May 15th, students and professors from CATRC were invited to attend a traditional wedding ceremony, which took place in an amazing imperial palace. It was a chance to see and feel a piece of traditional Korean culture in modern society. Ernat Sergazin, a research assistant in CATRC, shared his impressions of this memorable event.

“Korean students arranged for us to see a traditional wedding,” he said. “Of course, it looked totally different from our ceremonies, but one thing was the same. The bride didn’t show her face to the guests till the middle of the ceremony. It was very interesting because after this there was a traditional national performance.”

The trip also included serious academic work. The members of the two research centers carried out much deeper comparative research this time and also explored those areas that were left unattended during the first round in Almaty. A special focus was dedicated to methods for eliminating double taxation, the taxation of inter-company dividends, capital gains taxes, special tax regimes and special economic zones.

On the last day of the visit, the CATRC team split into two groups. One group explored the beaches of the Yellow Sea while touring historical sites. The second group joined students from KITC and visited the premises of the Korean National Oil Company (KNOC). This visit was part of a special project currently being carried out by CATRC. The students were received by a delegation of nine tax experts, and they jointly explored the intricacies of the international investment structures used by KNOC in Kazakhstan. This way, the joint research team could demonstrate the practical relevance of their research, its importance and the ways research can be used by the private sector.

The second round of the Korea-Kazakhstan Tax Forum was a great example of how bilateral research cooperation can work in practice. The event also demonstrated the benefits of collaboration: students and academics were able to further develop, while their universities were able to further internationalize. The event was so successful that representatives from the University of Seoul have already agreed to preliminary plans to organize another round of the forum. If things work out, the next round will take place either in Almaty or at another Central Asian university.

“The second Kazakhstan-Korea Tax forum in Seoul was another unforgettable experience, building on the success of the first forum in Almaty,” said Hyejung Byun, an associate professor at the University of Seoul. “Interacting with friends from CATRC is, firstly, so much fun, and it also inspires us and shows us another new world every time. The idea of the tax forum is not only for academic interaction, but also cultural interchange, and I expect the students participating in the forum would be the core of the practical relationship between the two countries in the future.”

“Lastly, I would like to express my gratitude to our friends from KIMEP for your long trip to Korea and great presentations,” he added. “I also appreciate everything my students did for the forum. Thanks to all of you! I truly had a blast!”

The Korea-Kazakhstan Tax Forum was only the first step, and CATRC is now planning many bilateral programs. The first round of the new China-Kazakhstan Tax Forum was recently held here in Almaty, and students are hard at work organizing events with counterparts in Russia, Turkey and Uzbekistan.