By Chief Operations Officer Kim Hyung-dae
Next year in 2020, the Republic of Korea and the Russian Federation meaningfully celebrate the 30th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries, which was signed on Sept. 30, 1990.
Korea and Russia have continuously developed bilateral relations in the economic, political, cultural and various other areas. In 2008, the two countries enhanced their relations to that of strategic cooperation partners. And in 2018, the two countries reached US$25 billion in the volume of trade. This represents a 120-fold increase since the normalization of relations.
Also, in 2018, Korea and Russia saw a total of 700,000 tourists visiting each other’s country.
President Moon Jae-in visited Russia September 2017 and attended the 3rd Eastern Economic Forum held in Vladivostok, where he disclosed the Republic of Korea’s “New Eastern Policy” introducing a blue print for increased cooperation between Asia and Europe.
Also in June 2018, President Moon Jae-in made an Official State Visit to Russia fir the first in 19 years for the President of the Republic of Korea, and had a Summit Meeting with President Vladmir Putin of Russia.
Russia is a very important country for Korea where she seeks complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
Way in the past, the then Empire of Great Korea and the Russian Empire first established formal diplomatic relations in 1884, after which Russia exerted considerable political influence on the Korean peninsula.
In particular, in 1896, the Korean royal family took refuge from pro-Japanese factions in Seoul at the Russian diplomatic compound, which is a great source of friendship between the Korean people toward Russia for the protection given Korea by Russia in the facing the Japanese imperialists expanding its influence on the Korean peninsula. However, after the defeat of Russia in the Russo-Japanese War, the Russian influence on Korea fell to near zero.
Korea had been seeking to trade with the Soviet Union even before former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev came to power. President 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 May 1979, Korea signed an agreement obtaining Finnish assistance in exporting to the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.
In the 1980s, Korean President Roh Tae-woo promoted Nordpolitik and President Mikhail Gorbachev's "New Thinking" beautifully worked to reverse the two nations' recent histories. Gorbachev had signaled Soviet interest in improving relations with all countries in the Asia-Pacific region, including the ROK, as explained in his July 1986 Vladivostok and August 1988 Krasnoyarsk speeches.
The natural resources Korea increasingly needed, such as oil, metals, timber, and fish, were abundant in the Soviet Far East.
Trade with the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and China would also alleviate Korea's apprehension over the United States' increasing trade protectionism. Korea's expanding trade with Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union initially was encouraged by the United States.
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 and Aeroflot planes landed in Seoul.
On Nov. 10, 1988, Russia, for the first time, reconsidered its relationship with Korea. Because of the lack of diplomatic relations, most South Korean-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 Korean 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 Korean businesses including Daewoo, Sunkyong, and Lucky-Goldstar traded directly with Russia 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, Roh's confidential foreign policy adviser is known 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, according to Wikipedia, even arranged Kim's meeting with the North Korean ambassador to the Soviet Union.
In June 1990, Roh held his first summit with President Gorbachev in San Francisco.
After the end of the former Soviet Union, the Republic of Korea and the Russia established diplomatic ties in 1991. On Nov. 20, 1992 Korea and Russia 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 the then 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 South Korean President Roh Moo-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, 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 Aug. 28, 2018, Vice Defense Minister Suh Choo-suk met with his Russian counterpart, Alexander Fomin, and reached an agreement to install a direct communication line between their air forces of two countries.
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 $1.7 billion debt to South Korea through joint investments in North Korea, such as the railroad project.
Korea sent its first astronaut on board a Soyuz flight to the International Space Station in April 2008. Korea plans the first domestic launch of a satellite in 2008, with Russian assistance. The first South Korean satellite was launched in 2013 with extensive Russian assistance and a Russian first stage.
Korean companies actively contributing to bilateral relations:
There are many Korean companies in Russia contributing to the economic cooperation between the two countries. They are among the strong supporters of the government in its effort to increase and expand relations between the two countries.
Among such companies POSCO, Kumho Tires, Hyundai Mobis, Orion, Kia Motors, Samsung Electronics, Korea Yakurt, Hyundai Motors, Uri Bank, Korea Exim Bank, Lotte Hotel, Korean Air, EcoBiz, Lotte, IBK Bank, Jeju Air, Air Busan, Asia… And the list can go on and on.
A typical Korean company greatly contributing to the relations, friendship and cooperation between Korea and Russia may be, perhaps, RH Focus Corp. In the interest of promoting the friendship and economic cooperation between the two countries it might not be amiss to learn what the CEO of the company has to say on the Korean-Russian relations and cooperation, especially in the field of economic cooperation. Here are excerpts from the statement of CEO Soo-Un Kim:
I emphasize the importance of cooperation, honesty and trust. And of course, I wish to grow together with our customers.
RH Focus Corp consists of experts in aircrafts. Our best properties are the differentiated technology and professionalism accumulated from the logistic supply services for the 62 units of Russian large-size helicopters (Ka-32, Mi-172) that we have supplied to Forest Aviation Headquarters, Korea Coast Guard, Republic of Korea Air force, Korean National Police Agency, City & Province Fire Services, Korea National Park Service and civilian aviation operators for last 24 years since we first imported the Kamov helicopter to Korea in 1993.
Our business domain ranges from helicopter & its parts sales, M.R.O., modernization & optional equipment development to the consulting & solution providing for the overall aviation business.
In order to provide the ultimate safety and quality, we newly established the aviation maintenance technology center (R & D Center). We are also ready to provide on time service whenever the customers demand by having the foreign specialists of helicopter manufacturer and core parts such as engine and gearbox stay at M.R.O. Division in Cheong-ju to improve logistic supply system.
Newly born in the name of RH Focus, we will strive our utmost for the customers’ satisfaction.
Excerpts from the speech of Presdient Moon Jae-in in Russia in June 2018:
Distinguished people of Russia, the Honorable Chairman Vyacheslav Viktorovich Volodin and members of the State Duma,
On my flight to Moscow, I pondered over the reverence human beings have for the vast earth. It came to my mind how that reverence enabled Russians to understand nature and human beings in more profound manner.
Russia has left behind great footprints in the world history with its long-term approaches as huge as the Eurasian continent. Russia changed the course of the world history with the Patriotic War of 1812 and the Great Patriotic War. It has simultaneously led the intellectual history of humanity and the advancement of science and technology.
The State Duma was also created by the people power of Russia. It now represents the voices of the Russian public and demonstrates the united strength of the Russian people.
I am deeply grateful to Chairman Volodin, Deputy Chairman Olga Timofeeva, Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Leonid Slutsky and other members of the State Duma for arranging an opportunity for me to address the State Duma, the first by a President of the Republic of Korea.
It is a great honor for me, indeed. At the same time, I can feel the anticipation of the Russian Government and Assembly as well as people looking forward to a new development between our two countries.
Distinguished people of Russia,
A Russian historian and geographer Lev Gumilyov remarked: “If Russia is to be saved, it will only be as a Eurasian power and only through Eurasianism.”
The vast, sprawling continent of Eurasia is a space in which large and small civilizations move forward toward the future through exchanges and cooperation, fostering hopes.
President Vladimir Putin’s New East Policy is the declaration of a Eurasian era envisioning peace and common prosperity. It is a magnificent design aimed at mapping out a new vision for humanity by containing the strengths of Western and Eastern civilizations in the mighty melting pot of Eurasia.
The Korean people are also aspiring to peace and common prosperity in all of Northeast Asia beyond permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula. The New Northern Policy I unveiled at the Eastern Economic Forum last year is the dream of the Korean people in response to the New East Policy.
Regarding Korea-Russia cooperation as the cornerstone of peace on the Korean Peninsula and prosperity in Northeast Asia, I have made wholehearted efforts thus far. Immediately after I was elected President, I spoke by phone to President Putin and sent a special envoy to Russia, the first of such kind by a Korean President, to discuss how to work together for the peaceful resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue and the development of the Russian Far East. In addition, I established the Presidential Committee on Northern Economic Cooperation exclusively charged with economic collaboration with Russia to be in step with the Ministry for Development of Russian Far East.
President Putin invited me to the Eastern Economic Forum last September, and I took that opportunity to present the New Northern Policy and discussed with him practical measures for economic cooperation between Korea and Russia.
In January this year, a meaningful event took place in Geoje Island, my hometown, which would help divert the eyes of the people around the world to Eurasia and the Arctic. The ice-breaking LNG Carrier Vladimir Rusanov, named after a Russian Arctic explorer, set sail on a trial run. I attended a ceremony and offered congratulations on the completion of the vessel and proudly announced to the world what Russia and Korea had achieved together.
Today, I hope the endeavors of Koreans who intend to come together with Russia will truly get across to you. I believe our friendship will be able to open wide the boundless possibilities of Eurasia.
Many Koreans have in their studies novels written by Dostoevsky, Tolstoy and Turgenev and an anthology of Pushkin. When I was young, I, too, used to ask myself the meaning of human beings, nature, history and life following unfamiliar Russian geographical names and characters in literary works. Modern Russian literary works introduced to Korea in the early 20th century had a major impact on the development of Korean contemporary literature. In fact, Russian literature was a humanism textbook in Korea. Remarkable descriptions of the dignity and spirit of human beings imprinted the importance of spiritual values on us who are living in a material civilization.
Yuri Gagarin, the first cosmonaut in the world who journeyed into outer space, gave us enlightenment more than science and technology. He let us know how precious the earth is and what an absolute being it is.
The potential of Russia lies in the deep understanding of human beings. That became the strength of the Russian people who never cave in to any challenge or difficulty.
Koreans have also traditionally respected human beings and valued cooperation and mutual trust, which has helped my country overcome countless invasions and emerge as a nation standing tall in the international community today. Among countries that achieved independence following the end of the World War II, the Republic of Korea was the only country to achieve high economic growth and democratic progress.
Like the people of Russia, Koreans are very strong mentally, too. I think this is the reason why our two peoples love Tolstoy.
Distinguished people of Russia,
Exactly 202 years ago, Korean diplomatic envoy Cho In-young met with Nikita Yakovlevich Bichurin, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church mission, in Peking, China, and developed friendship with him. Since then, our two countries have continued to foster relations of friendship and mutual respect.
In 1905, Lee Beom-jin, Korea's first Diplomatic Minister residing in Russia, heard the news of the deprivation of his country's diplomatic sovereignty. At that time, it was the Russian Government that lent a warm-hearted helping hand to him. Korea's countless independence activists, including Ahn Jung-geun, Hong Beom-do, Choi Jae-hyeong and Lee Sang-seol, sought asylum in Russia, where they mustered their strength again with the help of the Russian people and strived to work out ways to restore national sovereignty.
At the end of the 1980s, the Korean Government pushed for the Northern Policy to tear down the wall of the Cold War on the Korean Peninsula. At that time, the Soviet Government transcended the barrier of ideology and dispatched a large national squad to the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games. Friendship and mutual trust were built up between the peoples of the two countries, and finally, the two countries established diplomatic relations in 1990.
Now, automobiles and home appliances produced by Korean companies in Russia are received well by the Russian people. Russia transferred its advanced space technology to Korea in 2013, which made it possible for Korea to successfully launch the Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1, Naro.
In May this year, President Putin announced the National Goals and Strategic Objectives of the Russian Federation through 2024. It aims at bringing about changes that can be felt by the people and building an economy where each and every one is well off. The people-centered economy I am pursuing shares the same goals. It is aimed at returning the benefits of economic growth to the people in an equitable manner.
The dreams of our two countries for the Russian Far East are not different. Striving for peace and prosperity in Eurasia is a mission entrusted to us by the peoples of our two nations.
Distinguished people of Russia, Chairman Volodin and members of the State Duma,
The year 2020 will mark the 30th anniversary of Russia and Korea newly becoming neighbors to each other. In line with this meaningful 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties, our two countries mapped out concrete plans to strengthen cooperation for the development of Eurasia and achieve US$30 billion in trade and one million people-to-people exchanges.
I would like to take this opportunity to explain how to expand cooperation between our two countries.
First is to expand future growth engines. Preparing for future growth through innovations is of cardinal importance in providing job opportunities in our two countries and cementing the foundation for sustainable growth
A Korea-Russia Innovation Center will be established in Korea, and the Korea-Russia Science and Technology Cooperation Center in Moscow will be further expanded. I hope that Russia, which has the world's best original technologies and basic science and technology, and Korea, which has strength in IT, will work together to jointly lead the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Second is to seek Russian Far East development cooperation. At the 3rd Eastern Economic Forum last year, I proposed cooperation between our two countries centering on the nine-bridge strategy. We need to further strengthen cooperation in nine key areas: namely, shipbuilding, port construction, the Northern Sea Route development, gas exploration, railway construction, power generation, job creation, the farming industry and the fishing industry.
It is also necessary to expand the participation by the private sector. As of now, preparations are being made to hold forums on cooperation between the Russian Far East and Korean local governments.
Third is to strengthen the foundation for the promotion of exchanges to enhance the welfare of the people. One of the top priorities of the National Goals and Strategic Objectives of the Russian Federation through 2024 is to improve public health for the sake of raising the quality of life.
In order to cooperate in carrying out this task, Korea's advanced medical technologies will be brought to the Skolkovo Innovation Center, Russia. A state-of-the-art Korean-type general hospital, which will be established through cooperation between Russian and Korean businesses, will provide medical services specializing in treatments of cancers, kidney function and cerebral nerves as well as assistance for rehabilitation.
I hope that close cooperation between our two countries will enable the two peoples to lead happier lives. I hope that they will be able to realize the importance of the relationship between our two nations in their everyday lives.
Distinguished Russian citizens,
Tomorrow is the 77th anniversary of the beginning of the Great Patriotic War. It is a day of honoring the memory of numerous heroes and expressing condolences for innocent victims who passed away.
I hope it will be a day to once again remind ourselves of the importance of peace not only for the Russia people but also everyone across the world. The preciousness of peace can be more deeply felt by those who devoted themselves to building peace amid the ravages of war.
Not only Russia but Korea also experienced horrendous wars. I was born a son of a refugee as well, and I have keenly felt the pains of war and the preciousness of peace from early on.
A great historic transformation is now underway on the Korean Peninsula. I met with Chairman Kim Jong Un of the State Affairs Commission of North Korea last April. Through the Panmunjeom Declaration, we promised to the world the complete denuclearization of Korea and stated, “there will be no more war on the Korean Peninsula.”
In the North Korea-United States summit that followed, the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the end of long-lasting hostile relations between the two countries were declared. North Korea is taking substantive measures for the complete denuclearization such as the dismantlement of the nuclear and the missile testing sites. South Korea and the United States are responding by easing military pressure against the North, including the suspension of large-scale joint military exercises. Now the two Koreas and the United States are leaving the dark days of war and hostility behind and moving toward an era of peace and cooperation.
The active support and cooperation of the Russian Government and people have become a huge force behind this amazing transformation. I have dreamed of permanent peace and common prosperity on the Korean Peninsula and in Eurasia. I believe the representatives here will work together toward that goal.
When a peace regime is established on the Korean Peninsula, inter-Korean economic cooperation will begin in earnest and will be expanded into tripartite cooperation among the two Koreas and Russia. Speaking of tripartite economic cooperation, basic discussions, including joint research on railways, gas pipelines and electric grids, have already begun. If such trilateral cooperation is achieved, it will be able to make a strong foundation for an economic community in Northeast Asia. A solid peace regime between the two Koreas will also be able to develop into a multilateral peace and security cooperation regime in the region.
Distinguished Russian citizens and members of the State Duma,
The Trans-Siberian railway from the Yaroslavsky Railway Station here in Moscow to Vladivostok, the port in the Maritime Province, is not merely a single railroad. It is a path of life built by the golden hands of Russian workers and a path of civilization and peace that has expanded the horizon of the world’s awareness. It is not just a path on which goods and resources are transported but also which connects the East and West in the middle of Eurasia. It is the very gateway that opens an era of Eurasia.
The Trans-Siberian train that has been the center of overland transportation for over a century is becoming a symbol and foundation for building a Eurasian community. Now Korea anticipates that the Trans-Siberian railway will again reach Busan, the southern tip of the Korean Peninsula where I grew up, building on the permanent peace on the Peninsula.
I hope that South and North Korea will be able to join in developing the new potential of Eurasia and achieving mutual prosperity of the region.
The Russian saying, “Two heads are better than one,” is what we need now. If the wisdom of North Korea as well as of Russia and South Korea are combined, the dream for a Eurasian era as vast as the Continent will unfold.
Finally, I wholeheartedly congratulate you on the successful hosting of the World Cup, a global festival.
I joined other Koreans in giving a big hand to Russian athletes who demonstrated great performances at the PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games in February. I hope that Russian people will encourage Korean soccer players participating in the World Cup with warm cheers.
The Russian and Korean people have confidence in the new future of the two countries. If we build deeper respect for and trust in each other, we will be able to prevail over any difficulty and challenge together.
There lies a new hope of humanity in Eurasia where nature and people coexist. Russia and Korea will march together toward an era of peace and prosperity, moving beyond an era of war.
Спасибо большое. Thank you very much.