(ATTN: CHANGES headline, lead; UPDATES with reports of Moon's meeting with Korean residents in Almaty, changes throughout; ADDS photo)
ALMATY, Kazakhstan, April 21 (Yonhap) -- South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Sunday promised additional support for South Korean businesses and residents, including ethnic Koreans, in Kazakhstan, as well as the country that he said embraced thousands of Koreans forced to move here under the former Soviet Union.
"In September 1937, it was Kazakhstan's Ushtobe where the train carrying Koryoins first arrived. Even though it was not long after the country suffered a great famine, the people of Kazakhstan gladly offered their hands to help," Moon said in a meeting with some 300 Korean residents here, including the offspring of those forced to relocate here more than 80 years ago.
"There are limitless possibilities for cooperation between South Korea and Kazakhstan. The countries' governments will continue to strengthen their strategic partnership," he told the meeting, adding he will hold a summit with Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev on Monday.
Moon's meeting with the Korean residents came shortly after he arrived here on a three-day state visit. He is later set to head to the country's capital of Nur-Sultan.
Those present at the meeting included the descendants of two late independence fighters who fought against Japan's colonial rule of Korea (1910-45) while in exile.
They were also among the first settlers who were forced to move here under the former Soviet Union.
Moon was later set to attend a ceremony in Nur-Sultan, formerly called Astana, to send off the remains of the two late independence fighters back to their motherland.
He expressed his gratitude to the Kazakh government for allowing the return of their remains to South Korea.
"For us to remember and pay our respects to independence fighters is to let our future generations know their roots. It is also a way to expand the road of exchange between Kazakhstan and South Korea," the president said.
Moon noted cooperation between the two countries has steadily increased since they established diplomatic ties in 1992.
Bilateral trade between the countries came to US$2.2 billion last year, making Kazakhstan the largest trading partner of South Korea in Central Asia, with the number of visitors between the countries reaching a record high of nearly 90,000.
"(South Korea) will continue its efforts for the development of not only the two countries but the entire Eurasia," Moon said. "Because that is the way to repay the efforts of our compatriots, South Korea will do its utmost."
Moon's arrival here followed his four-day state visit to Uzbekistan that included a trip to the country's historic city of Samarkand.
The South Korean president is on a three-nation tour that has also taken him to Turkmenistan.
His eight-day tour will end Tuesday when he will wrap up his state visit to Kazakhstan.
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