This year marks the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Korea and Russia. To celebrate this diplomatic achievement, KT would like to take a look at the evaluation of diplomatic relations between the two countries and the prospects for future development. This article is based on the views on Park Jae Kyu, current President of Kyungnam University and former Minister of Unification.
KU President Park Jae Kyu is the first Korean who established a sisterhood relationship with universities in the Soviet Union. As a pioneer, he tried his best to
make it possible. In 1989, thanks to his dedication, there was an academic agreement between KU and Far Eastern Federal University (FEFU). As KU made alliance with Far East National University (FENU) in Russia, it became the first university to make it possible for its students to study at FENU, the current Far Eastern Federal University since 1991.
Since then, student and faculty exchanges between the two universities have been actively made, causing very remarkable results. As representative figures, researcher Park Jeong-min from the Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES) and professor Jung Eun-sang from the School of Liberal Studies of KU (also director of KU News and Press) have completed master's and doctorate degrees at the university.
In the midst of the great upheaval of the international politics since the post-Cold War, Korea made a great achievement of establishing diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union through the Northern Policy. Thanks to the establishment of diplomatic ties, the relationship between the two countries has been steadily developing over 30 years. As of 2018, the bilateral trade volume exceeded $24.8 billion, with 690,000 visitors. Plus, before COVID-19, Vladivostok was one of the most famous tourist destinations for South Koreans. As a preparation for the post-Corona and New Normal era, stability and peace in Northeast Asia are very important. South Korea has so far made great efforts to expand its political and economic ties and strengthen its diplomatic partnership with Russia. Now, let's look back on the development process and future directions of the relations between the two countries.
⃝ In the early and mid-1990s, South Korea and Russia normalized diplomatic relations. For example, they accomplished the Treaty of Basic Relations between South Korea and Russia in 1992 and the Joint Declaration of Moscow in 1994. In 2000, with the commencement of the Putin administration, the Constructive and Complementary Partnership was further strengthened to mark the 10th anniversary of diplomatic relations between South Korea and Russia. In 2004, the two countries established a comprehensive, mutually trusted partnership, which made a new partnership and strengthened the relationship between the two countries.
⃝ From 2016 to the present, it has been the period of seeking comprehensive strategic cooperation. The Presidents of the two countries have held three summit meetings in Hamburg (Germany), Vladivostok (Russia), and Moscow (Russia), while maintaining a "Strategic Cooperative Partnership."
⃝ In 2017, South Korean President Moon Jae In took part in Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) held in Vladivostok, Russia. During the keynote speech, He announced Five Frames of Cooperation and Nine Bridge Strategies. Russia's status in Northeast Asia and its function as a “strategic actor" are getting more and more significant. Moreover, in the context of regional international relations in Northeast Asia, South Korea-Russia relations are also getting more and more important.
⃝ Russian President Vladimir Putin's policy named New Eastern Policy deserves a good welcome. Through the annual Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) held here, it is hoped that political, security, economic cooperation and academic cultural exchanges will be expanded with the countries in Northeast Asia, including the Korean Peninsula. Russia needs to restore its influence on the Korean Peninsula. To make it possible, the top priority is to improve relations between Russia and North Korea. Though the relations have been steadily strengthened since Putin took office, there are still realistic limits to Russia’s progress in North Korea on account of North Korea’s continued attempts to develop nuclear weapons and missiles.
⃝ The relationship between South Korea and Russia is not going as well as expected. Here are some reasons for the problem. First, mutual approaches and priorities of "security and economic cooperation" in the early days of bilateral cooperation were different. Second, there were limitations in cooperation with Russia in the framework of Korea's diplomatic and security with the U.S. These problems have been still working as negative factors for the improvement in relations between South Korea and Russia. Besides, Russia's political and economic characteristics and the existence of differences in perception of North Korea still serve as obstacles to the development of bilateral relations. As the Korean saying goes, "A trouble shared is a trouble halved” the two countries would have to prepare a new turning point in the development of relations through cooperation and efforts of understanding
⃝ Finally, looking at the direction of the development of South Korea-Russia relations in the mid- and long-term, the two countries need to strengthen the strategic partnership in which Russia will promote regional cooperation that can be driven by the two countries in Northeast Asia. The key is to realize shared interests that exist as possibilities through strategic cooperation. In other words, the strategic partnership between South Korea and Russia should be embodied in the internalization of bilateral, regional and global issues.