Korea, Russia have full justification to further upgrade bilateral ties
Korea, Russia have full justification to further upgrade bilateral ties
  • Lee Kyung-sik
  • 승인 2023.08.03 10:31
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By Publisher Lee Kyung-sik with VCs Jang Chang-yong, Cho Kyung-hee

The Republic of Korea and the Russian Federation have a very important and special relationship with each other. And Korea and Russia have full justification in recovering and further improving and expanding their bilateral relations, cooperation and friendship.

Korea and Russia have closely developed a "strategic cooperative partnership" in all areas of politics, economy, science and technology, and culture over the past 31 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1990.

St. Basil's Cathedral from Red Square
St. Basil's Cathedral from Red Square

The two countries are actively working together with the international community to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue, and bilateral trade has exceeded US$27 billion, up more than 140 times since the beginning of diplomatic relations. Russia is a major supplier of energy, resources, and seafood to Korea, and Korea has a presence in many sectors, with market leadership in automotive, IT and electronics, and shipbuilding.

Korea and Russia have also been actively collaborating in science, technology, and innovation, including industry, AI, and space, and our growing mutual interest and exchanges in culture, the arts, and the Korean Wave have led to reciprocal visits between Korea and Russia, which reached 800,000 prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, with more than 160,000 of our nationals and compatriots now living in Russia.

Maslenica festival featuring a variety of masks

In addition, Korea is committed to substantial progress on solving the North Korean nuclear issue and the realization of a "nuclear-free, peaceful, and prosperous Korean Peninsula" through strategic communication with Russia, one of the four neighboring countries, and keeping a close eye on the impact and changes that the Ukraine crisis may bring to the international order.

Korea and Russia have been closely cooperating with each for the past 31 years, and the majority of the people in Korea since the end of the Cold War, we will continue to fulfill our responsibilities as a government that proactively responds to the new international environment and implements a global backbone.

St. Basil's Cathedral from Red Square
National History Museum

Excerpts from Wikipedia account on Korea:
Korea and the Russian Empire first established formal diplomatic relations in 1884, after which Russia exerted considerable political influence in Korea. In particular, in 1896, the Korean Royal Family took refuge from pro-Japanese factions in Seoul at the Russian Diplomatic compound.

After the defeat of Russia in the Russo-Japanese War, however, Russian influence in Korea fell to near zero.

Soviet Russia and later the Soviet Union had diplomatic assistance to the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea, the forerunner to the present-day Republic of Korea, which served as a government in exile during the Japanese occupation of the country.

While the festival is centered in Russia, it is also traditionally celebrated in Ukraine and Belarus.On the last day of the festival, the effigy of the woman shown behind is burned.

Korea had been seeking to trade with the Soviet Union even before President Gorbachev came to power. Gorbachev desired foreign capital and high technology, as well as Seoul's help in alleviating the Soviet economic crisis through direct investment, joint ventures, and trade. As early as in May 1979, Korea signed an agreement obtaining Finnish assistance in exporting to the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.

In the 1980s, President Roh Tae-woo's Nordpolitik and Mikhail Gorbachev's "New Thinking" were both attempts to reverse their nations' recent histories. Gorbachev had signaled Soviet interest in improving relations with all countries in the Asia-Pacific region, including Korea, as explained in his July 1986 Vladivostok and August 1988 Krasnoyarsk speeches.

The natural resources Seoul increasingly needed--oil, metals, timber, and fish--are abundant in the Soviet Far East. Trade with the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and China would also alleviate Korea's apprehension over increasing trade protectionism. Korea's expanding trade with Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union initially was encouraged by the United States, although Washington later became increasingly concerned over possible high-technology transfers.

Improved Seoul-Moscow relations were planned in three related stages: sports, trade, and political relations. The 1988 Seoul Olympics was a major catalyst. Moscow sent more than 6,000 Soviets to Seoul and Soviet tourist ships came to Busan and Incheon.

On Nov. 10, 1988, the Soviet Politburo, for the first time, reconsidered its relationship with the ROK. Because of the lack of diplomatic relations, most ROK-Soviet trade initially was indirect; Eastern Europe, Hong Kong, Japan, and Singapore served as intermediaries.

With an increasing volume of trade, Seoul and Moscow began trading directly, using facilities near Vladivostok and Busan. The Korea Trade Promotion Corporation (KOTRA) and the Soviet Chamber of Commerce and Industry exchanged a trade memorandum in 1988 pledging mutual assistance in establishing trade offices in 1989.

Seoul's trade office in Moscow opened in July 1989; Moscow's trade office in Seoul opened in April 1989. Several major ROK businesses including Daewoo, Sunkyong, and Lucky-Goldstar traded directly with the Soviet Union in 1990.

Korea's new-found wealth and technological prowess had been attracting the interest of a growing number of socialist nations. In initiating Nordpolitik, President Roh Tae-woo's confidential foreign policy adviser was rumored to have visited Moscow to consult with Soviet policymakers.

President Kim Young Sam visited Moscow from June 2 to June 10, 1989, as the Kremlin announced that it would allow some 300,000 Soviet-Koreans who had been on the Soviet island of Sahkalin since the end of World War II to return permanently to South Korea. Moscow even arranged Kim's meeting with the North Korean ambassador to the Soviet Union.

In June 1990, President Roh held his first summit with President Gorbachev in San Francisco and diplomatic relations between the two countries officially began on September 30, 1990.

After the end of the Soviet Union, Korea and Russia established diplomatic ties in 1991. On Nov. 20, 1992, Russia and the ROK signed a protocol providing for regular visits of defense officials and naval vessels between the two countries.

On July 23, 1997, during a visit of Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov to Seoul, a "hot line" agreement was signed providing for the establishment of a special communications link between the official residences of the Russian and South Korean presidents.

Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Seoul in February 2001, while Korean President Roh Mu-hyun visited Moscow in September 2004.

Korea and Russia are participants in the Six-party talks on the North Korea's nuclear proliferation issue.

In November 2013, Russia and Korea signed a visa-free travel regime agreement.

President Moon Jae-in speaks at the State Duma.

From 21 to 23 June 2018, South Korean President Moon Jae-in paid a state visit to Russia. On June 21, he addressed the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian Federal Assembly. He became the first South Korean leader to speak in the Russian Parliament. On June 22, Russian President Vladimir Putin held talks with Moon Jae-in in Moscow. Leaders signed a document for foundation of free trade area.

On 28 August 2018 Vice Defense Minister Suh Choo-suk met with Russian counterpart Alexander Fomin and reached an agreement to install a direct communication line between their air forces of two countries.

Economic cooperation:

South Korea and Russia are working together on construction of a bilateral industrial complex in the Nakhodka Free Economic Area in Russia's Far East and gas-fields development in Irkutsk.

The two sides also agreed to cooperate on reconnecting a planned inter-Korean railroad with the Trans-Siberian Railway. Russia has expressed interest in becoming a conduit for South Korean exports to Europe, which now go by ship, by linking the Korean railroad to the TSR.

Russia reportedly offered to repay its US$1.7 billion debt to South Korea through joint investments in North Korea, such as the railroad project.

Space program:

South Korea sent its first cosmonaut on board a Soyuz flight to the International Space Station in April 2008. South Korea made domestic satellite launches in 2009 and 2010, both with Russian assistance. The first South Korean satellite was successfully launched in 2013 with extensive Russian assistance and a Russian first stage.

Human migration:

Goryeo-saram is the name which ethnic Koreans in the Post-Soviet states use to refer to themselves. Approximately 500,000 ethnic Koreans reside in the former USSR, primarily in the newly independent states of Central Asia.

There are also large Korean communities in southern Russia (around Volgograd), the Caucasus, and southern Ukraine. These communities can be traced back to the Koreans who were living in the Russian Far East during the late 19th century.

There is also a separate ethnic Korean community on the island of Sakhalin, typically referred to as Sakhalin Koreans. Some may identify as Goryeo-saram, but many do not. Unlike the communities on the Russian mainland, which consist mostly of immigrants from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the ancestors of the Sakhalin Koreans came as immigrants from Gyeongsang and Jeolla provinces in the late 1930s and early 1940s, forced into service by the Japanese government to work in coal mines in order to fill labor shortages caused by World War II.

Russians in Korea began arriving as early as 1885; however, virtually all of the current Russian community in South Korea, estimated at about 10,000 people, is composed of recent migrants.

Cultural exchange:

There have been cases of cultural exchange between the two countries before the official diplomatic recognition. The introduction of Korean literature to the Russophone area was relatively active until the 1970s mainly through Korean classical stories.

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