The following article was contributed by Mr. Alexander Masaltsev, the Trade Representative of the Russian Federation in the Republic of Korea, for publication by The Korea Post media.--Ed.
By Alexander Masaltsev
Last year marked the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Korea. The history of cooperation between Russia and Korea is certainly not limited to three decades.
The Russian Empire and the Kingdom of Joseon signed an agreement on friendship and trade on July 7, 1884. In 1890, the building of the Russian Mission was constructed in Seoul, a part of it has survived to this day.
The beautiful Renaissance building, located on a hill in the center of the city, became one of the centers of the diplomatic and social life of the Korean capital at that time.
As a symbol of a benevolent attitude towards Russia in the very center of Seoul, near the Lotte Hotel, there is a monument to the Russian poet Alexander Pushkin. It was opened with the participation of the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin during his official visit to the Republic of Korea in November 2013.
Currently, bilateral relations are developing dynamically in almost all areas. This is favored by the fact that there are no complex political or other problems between Russia and South Korea that could have a deterrent effect on the development of our contacts.
Since 2014, a visa-free regime has been in place for tourist and business trips, which led to an increase in tourism and really allowed our peoples to get to know each other better, making it possible to make visits more often and see everything first hand.
Today the Republic of Korea is one of the key trade partners of Russia in the Asia-Pacific. As of the end of 2020, it held 9th place in Russian trade among foreign countries and 2nd place among Russia's foreign trade partners in East Asia.
The main volumes of Russian exports are oil products, coal, LNG, as well as seafood and metals. As for Korean exports, every Russian has some products made in the Republic of Korea: electronics, household appliances, cars and much more.
According to the latest data from the Federal Customs Service of Russia, bilateral trade in 2020 amounted to $ 19.6 billion, while Russian exports to Korea - $ 12.4 billion, and our imports from South Korea - $ 7.2 billion. These figures were achieved with the adjustments made by the coronavirus pandemic: in 2020, compared with the previous year, the trade turnover decreased by 19.4%. We are counting on accelerated growth after the normalization of the epidemiological situation.
Many large South Korean companies are represented in Russia. Factories of LG Electronics, Samsung Electronics, KT @ G, Lotte Confectionery are operating successfully. Lotte Hotel manages hotels in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Vladivostok.
With regard to Russian companies operating in the South Korean market, our energy suppliers are certainly the most represented at the moment, but I would like to say a few words about success stories in sectors that are not related to energy and open up new opportunities.
The Russian company LLC "Grikol-Limited" has supplied 300 tons of anti-ice filler "Grikol" to the Republic of Korea. According to the experts of the Korean Highway Corporation, in terms of its technical and operational characteristics, Grikol fully meets the high requirements of the South Korean roadbed standards.
The construction of a plant for the production of "Grikol" based on the Russian component, which is supposed to be exported from Russia on a permanent basis, is at the final stage.
Not everyone knows that Russian-made helicopters have been successfully used by the rescue and firefighting services in South Korea for quite a few years. The first Ka-32 helicopters (supplier--Russian Helicopters company) have been delivered to the Forest Service of the Republic of Korea since 1993.
Over the past 28 years, they have made a huge contribution to saving lives and property of Koreans during major fires, typhoons, floods and other natural disasters. As far as we know, the Gangwon Provincial Fire Department plans to hold a tender for the purchase of a fire-fighting helicopter this year.
Strong wind is customary for this province, which, in case of fire, on the one hand, contributes to the rapid spread of fire, and on the other hand, prevents the helicopter operating in the sky. Taking this into account, helicopters of the Ka-32 type with a coaxial rotor design, which makes it possible to efficiently, and most importantly, safely perform tasks even in the most difficult weather conditions, can be considered the most task-suitable machine.
Favorable prospects for cooperation in the field of transport, of course, in the medium and long term, are determined by the geographical position of the two countries, their growing integration into the international transport space.
Russia continues to increase the intensity of traffic along the Eurasian transport corridors, modernize port infrastructure and border checkpoints, and improve sectoral regulations. For the growth of export of services in this area, the implementation of the project for the development of the Northern Sea Route is of particular importance.
Another promising segment of bilateral cooperation is the export of business services, primarily in the field of information technology. According to the World Intellectual Property Organization, the Russian Federation ranks 7th in the world in terms of the number of applications for new patents.
We should focus on technologically complex segments such as platform and infrastructure solutions, engineering and scientific software, artificial intelligence, robotic medicine and mechanotherapy, the Internet of things and computer vision and big data.
Here we also have stories of successful cooperation despite the pandemic. In October last year, a number of agreements on technological cooperation were signed between Russian and South Korean counterparts, the key of which was the Memorandum of Understanding on attracting investments between the South Korean province of Gyeonggi, ExoAtlet JSC and the New Industry Venture Fund.
ExoAtlet is a Russian company with an office in Moscow, it develops and manufactures exoskeletons, creates new effective methods for the rehabilitation of patients with the consequences of spinal cord injury, stroke, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis.
A few words about cooperation in the field of tourism. The main trends in the development of the world market in this area are the growing popularity of active travel, including the separation of gastronomic and ecological tourism as independent directions.
Russia's advantages in this area are determined by the unique geographical conditions of our country, its vast expanses and rich cultural heritage. In the last two or three years, there has been a real boom in South Korean tourism in Russia, not only Moscow, St. Petersburg, but also Baikal lake and the Russian Far East are popular.
The inflow of South Korean tourists is facilitated by the visa-free regime introduced in 2014 between our countries. An entire industry focused on South Korean travelers is emerging in Vladivostok.
As you know, pollock is one of the favorite foods in the diet of Koreans. In April, the first shipment of frozen pollock is expected to arrive in Busan. A South Korean company has acquired the merchandize on the Russian seafood exchange.
The trades took place at the Saint Petersburg Stock Exchange with the participation of the Far Eastern Auction Fish House (Main “Far Eastern Fish Exchange” (dvrb2014.ru)) and the assistance of the Trade Representation of Russia in the Republic of Korea. The object of the transaction was 800 tons of pollock produced by Koryakmoreproduct company. Buyer - WS Global Inc. - a supplier to retail chains in South Korea.
This transaction through the Far Eastern Auction Fish House is a new experience in our cooperation. In the context of the coronavirus, this is, first of all, saving time and money. Secondly, this is quality control: when, due to closed borders, you cannot leave the country to personally inspect products, the exchange does it for you.
And last but not the least, of course, direct, without intermediaries, transactions with fish producers. We look forward to expanding supplies through the Far Eastern Auction Fish House.
Another interesting and promising project - a contract was signed for the supply to the Republic of Korea of a radar station "ENOT" (manufactured by JSC "ELVIS") designed for automatic detection of unmanned aerial vehicles, including small class ones, and ensuring airport security.
After passing the necessary test procedures, the device was handed over to the end user - the Korean State Airport Management Corporation for further use at one of the South Korean airports. Negotiations are underway to expand supplies in connection with positive feedback on the operation of the device.
As you can see, Russian exporters in South Korea offer the widest range of goods, from high-tech helicopters and drones, to metal products, timber processing, as well as tasty and healthy confectionery products, medicinal chaga, honey.
We look forward to further expansion and deepening of bilateral trade and economic cooperation and we would like to invite South Korean entrepreneurs to explore the opportunities offered by interaction with Russian exporters.
Trade Representation of Russia moves into new building:
On Jan. 22, 2021, an opening ceremony of the new office of the Trade Representation of the Russian Federation in the Republic of Korea took place in Seoul.
The office was moved within the framework of the information transparency program “from mansions to offices,” currently implemented by the Ministry of Industry and Trade of the Russian Federation.
In accordance with the principle, the Trade Representation has been transferred to a modern business center, and now any entrepreneur, both domestic and foreign, has the opportunity to visit the Representation without any limitations.
The new office, located next to the Russian Embassy in Seoul, has ample meeting rooms where they can receive South Korean importers of Russian products in maximum compliance with modern business efficiency criteria. The opening ceremony was attended by Ambassador Andrei Kulik of the Russian Federation in Seoul, the management and employees of the Russian Embassy and other Russian overseas institutions, and heads of representative offices of Russian companies accredited in Seoul.
New contact details of the Trade Mission are as follows:
Address: 04516, 5Fl., N building, Seosomun-ro 89-31, Jung-gu, Seoul, Korea
Tel 82-02-737-8704, Fax 82-02-737-6404
Results of Korea-Russia Summit on Sidelines of G20 Summit in Japan:
President Moon Jae-in and Russian President Vladimir Putin held a summit at the Rihga Royal Hotel Osaka on June 29, 2019. The two Presidents had in-depth discussions on how to work together for denuclearization and the settlement of peace on the Korean Peninsula as well as how to promote substantive collaboration between Korea and Russia in such areas as an FTA in the service and investment sectors and the “Nine Bridges” initiative.
President Putin informed President Moon of the outcome of his summit with North Korea’s Chairman Kim Jong Un in April, saying the Chairman had stressed that a security guarantee for the North is vital and that corresponding measures need to be taken in return for denuclearization.
Giving high marks to President Moon’s endeavors for inter-Korean dialogue, President Putin said he welcomes and supports the South’s recent humanitarian assistance to the North.
In reply, President Moon expressed his appreciation to President Putin for having clarified his steadfast stance on the principle of achieving complete denuclearization through dialogue and the necessity for advancing talks between the two Koreas as well as between North Korea and the United States to that end during the April North Korea-Russia summit.
President Moon also said Russia’s constructive role is of immense help in moving the peace process on the Korean Peninsula forward, expressing his intent to continue close communication and cooperation with Russia.
Noting that the exchange of personal letters between President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un has again added to momentum for dialogue, President Moon said he looks forward to working together with Russia and China in order to maintain such positive momentum.
President Moon also expressed the hope that three-way cooperation among both Koreas and Russia could be implemented in earnest once relevant conditions are created: progress in the Korean Peninsula’s denuclearization and the removal of sanctions against North Korea. The President next noted that their two countries’ joint studies into such sectors as railroads, gas and power generation are proceeding smoothly.
The two Presidents expressed the hope that the action plan for the Nine Bridges initiative, which was signed in February this year, will be systematically implemented and produce tangible outcomes.
The two leaders expressed pleasure with the official launch of negotiations over a Korea-Russia FTA in the service and investment sectors being announced on June 20. They said they hope that, based on those negotiations, consultations over a Korea-Eurasian Economic Union FTA, to include goods, also gain momentum.
The two leaders welcomed the fact that bilateral trade grew almost 30 percent last year and that the positive trend is continuing this year as well. They found common ground on ensuring that the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties next year serves as an opportunity to elevate the two countries’ strategic cooperative partnership to the next level by achieving US$30 billion in trade and 1 million people-to-people exchanges by 2020.
The two leaders spoke highly of the fact that Korean shipbuilders are now involved in the construction of icebreakers that Russia needs for its LNG development projects and agreed to expand bilateral cooperation further going forward.
President Moon said he hopes that President Putin will visit Korea at the earliest possible date so that they can have an opportunity to hold in-depth discussions on various areas. President Putin said that he had fond memories of his previous visits to Korea and that he will consider the invitation in a positive light.