English language Web site on current affairs in the biggest russian region
00:05 | Aug 11 | 2011

Victor Ishaev: “It is hard to imagine the times when contacts between our countries were minimal”

The development of relations between the Far Eastern Federal District and its nearest neighbour South Korea progresses in all industry fields and agriculture. Korean companies invest in construction of the enterprises in the Russian Far East. As the Plenipotentiary envoy of the President of the Russian Federation in the Far Eastern Federal District Victor Ishaev informed, this interaction is evaluated by Russian and Korean authorities as one of the most perspective among other countries of the Asia-Pacific Region (APR).

– Mr. Ishaev, how do you estimate cooperation development between Russia and South Korea for 20 years from the date of establishment of diplomatic relations between the states? What spheres of cooperation between Russia and the Republic of Korea influence the development of the Far Eastern Federal District?

– For the last 20 years of our friendship, the dynamics of Korean-Russian relations development have significantly increased. At that, globalization processes are obvious in Korea. In its turn, Russia takes more and more steps to integrate with the countries of the Asia-Pacific Region. I assure you, the XXI century is the APR century. Exactly this region develops in the most dynamic way. At the same time, the Russian Far East has the substantial potential for economic cooperation with this region.

The official visit of the President of the Republic of Korea Lee Myung-bak to the Russian Federation and his meeting with the President of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev proved that relations with the Republic of Korea are considered to be top-priority for Russian foreign policy in Asia and that they stably develop in the direction of strategic partnership.

On the instructions of the President of the Russian Federation, I visited South Korea. My meeting with Mr. Myung-bak was informative: we discussed the basic projects to be implemented in the Far East of Russia – on Kamchatka and Sakhalin. Buildings for the APEC Summit in Primorsky Kray (the Maritime Territory) were of great interest to the President of Korea. This matter is especially interesting for him because he visited Primorsky Kray more than once. We discussed issues concerning cooperation of our countries in the sphere of oil and gas production, development of coal fields, construction of oil and gas pipelines and of the railway through the Korean Peninsula. Lee Myung-bak expressed readiness of the Korean party to participate in the construction of the space port “Vostochny” in the Amur Region. Questions about tripartite cooperation between Russia, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea were also touched upon. We expressed a general opinion that economic cooperation of three countries will be mutually beneficial if using natural resources of Russia, technologies of South Korea and manpower resources of North Korea. We also discussed arrangements for preparation for the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic Russian-Korean relations.

In conversation with the President I emphasized that it is necessary to develop economic cooperation at priority pace to solve political problems. World practice knows such examples.

– What forms of economic cooperation and in what branches could Russia and South Korea advance to contribute to the development of the Far East, according to your opinion?

– Our natural resources, transport infrastructure, achievements in scientific sphere together with South Korean technologies allow us to work actively in such fields, as power engineering, transport, space researches, fishery and peaceful application of atomic energy.

Russia remains on the 8th place in the list of the most emerging markets for South Korea. In 2009, goods turnover of only the Far East amounted to $4.1 billion, including export of Russian goods – $3.7 billion, import – $394.8 million. In the first half of 2010, goods turnover of the Far East with the Republic of Korea amounted to $2.9 billion, having increased by 1.8 times in comparison with the similar period of last year, when it amounted to $1.6 billion.

The export of the Russian Far East to Korea is basically presented by oil and marine products. The main part of import is machine-technical products.

We support creation of joint woodworking enterprises on the territory of the Far Eastern Federal District with the subsequent export of finished goods to Korea and to other countries.

We plan to develop cooperation in shipbuilding industry, export of ferrous metals to the Republic of Korea, cooperation in car industry, in particular, organization of assembling of South Korean cars. Together we will develop the tourist sphere – hotel business, ski centres. We also plan the development of cruise field – calling Korean ships at the ports of Vladivostok, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Aniva.

– Basic business investments in Russia are concentrated to the west of the Ural Mountains. What measures are undertaken to attract companies of South Korea to the Russian Far East?

– The President and the Government pay huge attention to the East of Russia. In this connection, investments only in large-scale projects in the nearest future will amount to not less than 3.3 trillion roubles. The basic volume of these funds will be directed to infrastructure development.

At the end of 2009 the Government approved the program “Strategy of social and economic development of the Far East and the Baikal Region for the period till 2025”. Investment plans of the region are to be increased up to 9 trillion roubles.

In our turn, we created the Council on attraction of foreign investments under the Plenipotentiary envoy of the President in the Far Eastern Federal District. We will make suggestions on the problems connected with investment appeal of the Far East economy, and also solve issues of the foreign investment organizations while implementing investment projects in the district. The president of gas corporation KOGAS Choo Kang-Soo and the president of Daewoo Shipbuilding company Nam Sang-Tae are the members of the Council from the side of the Republic of Korea.

Unfortunately, as a result of world economic crisis, the volume of investments has decreased by 3.9 times. From January till June 2010, $9.7 million investments arrived from Korea to the Far Eastern Federal District against $37.5 million arrived during the similar period of 2009.

– Is there a wish from the Russian part to get South Korea to take part in the development of the Trans-Siberian Railroad?

– Our countries are obliged to carry out such a large joint project as connection of the Trans-Korean Railroad with the Trans-Siberian Railroad. It is necessary to engage the Korean business in reconstruction of the Trans-Korean Railroad.

Moreover, development prospects of trade and economic relations cause the necessity of development of port infrastructure and, correspondingly, development of one more trunk-railway that is Baikal-Amur – the BAM-2 project. It is planned to increase traffic capacity of existing railway by making it double-track, with electric traction trains, and to reconstruct the stations.

– Russian Primorsky Kray is greatly developing before the APEC Summit 2012 in Vladivostok. Many Korean companies compete for participation in construction. Is such participation important for the Russian part? Investments in what fields could be considered as perspective in this regard?

– The base scenario of the Far Eastern Region development provides creation and development of local innovative-industrial centres and techno parks which, first of all, will focus on creation of new products. In the long term, educational and scientific centres with technological and marketing researches following the chain “idea – technology – goods and service” will appear here.

Qualitatively new development of the ship-building industry of the Far East is planned as well. After attraction of investments from Korea and Singapore to Primorsky Kray, there was started construction of two ship-building factories for manufacture of tankers and gas carriers of more than 100 thousand tons displacement.

I believe, we can quite reanimate the Russian-Korean project of techno park “Nakhodka” in Primorsky Kray, after having made it a special economic zone of industrial and production type. Certainly, we wait for participation of the Korean capital in construction projects in Vladivostok. The city will turn into agglomeration with representative, transport, logistic, innovative, educational and tourist functions.

– At the end of August the Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin unveiled the last section of oil pipeline Eastern Siberia – Pacific Ocean in location Skovorodino at the border of China. Korea is also interested in getting oil and gas. Is there any collaboration in the oil and gas field?

– Signing of long term contracts on supplying of energy resources is one of the priority-driven directions. As it is known, Korean corporation KOGAS shows interest in projects on oil and gas pipeline construction in Primorsky Kray within the bounds of implementation of the Eastern Gas Program.

Building of a liquefied natural gas plant is planned on the territory of Primorsky Kray; gas will be transported to APR countries, including the Republic of Korea.

Oil and gas production volumes in the Far East will increase considering requirements of our region and neighbouring countries. In the long term we will be able to enter international markets with products of deeper conversion. Energy industry may become significant here. ESPO pipeline is constructed at a rapid pace, at the end of this pipeline – in Primorsky Kray – modern oil refinery will be built. Factories which are already working on the Khabarovsk Territory will also get new possibilities.

– Agriculture is an important sector of economy. The potential for bipartite cooperation in this field is also great. At the present moment seven companies of South Korea rent 157 thousand hectares in Primorsky Kray and are farming there. Is Russia satisfied with cooperation in this field?

– It is important for us not only develop the cooperation in agriculture and in the field of joint agriproduct processing, but also to preserve sown area for descendants. The main thing is that technologies applied in agriculture have to be low impact technologies.

According to my data, all created joint Russian-Korean enterprises in Primorsky Kray are supplied with modern equipment, with grain storage and processing complexes. Progressive production technologies for agricultural products are implemented at the enterprises.

The creation of such enterprises positively influences expansion of laborious and expensive productions, such as rice production and cattle breeding. There have been already invested up to 1.5 billion roubles from South Korea into the agricultural production of Primorsky Kray only.

– How do you estimate the role of Korean community in the life of the Far Eastern Federal District? What life spheres do Koreans take the most active part in? Are there any assistance programs to support Korean national culture? How do they develop?

– I have been living in the Far East for all my life. I know that the majority of the Far East inhabitants are acquainted with the Korean culture. Annually, festivals of the Korean culture take place in Primorsky Kray, the Khabarovsk Territory, the Sakhalin Region. National Korean music and dances, performed by Russian groups, are familiar to us since childhood. We have always been living in friendship with representatives of the Korean diaspora. There are, so-called, “Korean settlements” almost in each area. And products of the Korean ethnic cuisine are always presented in our markets and shops. Many Far East inhabitants even celebrate New Year twice – on January 1 and according to the Eastern calendar – on February 14.

The most numerous Korean diaspora, about 37 thousand people, lives in the Sakhalin Region. 17 regional public associations of the Sakhalin Koreans are registered here, and the state television broadcasts not only in Russian language, but in Korean as well.

Children in Vladivostok, Khabarovsk and Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk study the Korean language at schools; the training base for Korea historians was established at universities. There are students and teachers exchange programs.

Korean and Russian people are connected by friendship for many years. For this reason, we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between our countries in such a great way. The Russian Far East is in immediate proximity to South Korea, therefore it is even hard to imagine the times when contacts between our countries were reduced to a minimum.

What’s new?

This year celebrates the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Korea and Russia. From November 2010 till March 2011 the National Folk Museum of Korea in Seoul hosted a collection from the Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography of St.-Petersburg (Kunstkamera).

The exhibition was called “Path Toward: the Cultural Unity of the Peoples of Eurasia” and aimed to promote cultural exchanges between two our countries, the nations living on the vast territory with the West point in St.-Petersburg and the East point in Seoul. The Russian exhibition presented the culture of the people’s of Siberia, Central Asia, Far East and Russian North.