Russian Vice Consulate in Busan 1903-1923
Russian Vice Consulate in Busan 1903-1923
  • 경남타임즈(경남대학교)
  • 승인 2024.03.22 16:03
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An article by Consul-General of the Russian Federation in Busan Oxana S. Dudnik


The View of the Site of Russian Vice Consulate
The View of the Site of Russian Vice Consulate

 September 2023 marked the 30th anniversary of the opening of the Consulate General of the Russian Federation in Busan. In this regard we decided to review the history of the Russian consular presence in the southern regions of Korea.

 It is well known that since 1899 the Russian Vice Consulate operated in Masan. Nowadays Wolpo Elementary School is situated on this site. In order to commemorate the Russian consular mission the Masan authorities installed a stele at the entrance of the school. Meanwhile few people, both in Russia and in Korea, are aware of the fact that in 1903 the Russian Vice Consulate was relocated to Busan, where it continued to operate until 1923.

 The documents related to the issue are well preserved in the archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation. They contain interesting facts regarding the establishment of the Vice Consulate, its activities and development of ties between the Russian Far East and the southern regions of Korea at that time.

  On June 7, 1903 Emperor Nikolai II gave his consent to relocate the Russian consular mission from Masan to Busan.

 In autumn 1903 Vice-Consul of Russia in Masan G.A.Kozakov purchased a land plot (the overall size of which was 28 197 square meters) from an American citizen Dr. Irwin. It was situated on the steep slope of the mountain over the port overlooking the entire bay and the open sea, in ten minutes' walk distance from the Gyeongseong-Busan Railway Station and the pier for the steamships that maintained daily communication between Busan and Shimonoseki. On the level below the customs commissioner's house was situated.

 For the needs of the Consulate mission it was planned to build a one-story brick house with a tiled or slate roof, consisting of a chancellery, an office of the viceconsul, a living room, a dining room, three bedrooms with restrooms, a buffet and a pantry, as well as a small “semi-Korean” house for a translator.

 According to the description made in 1932 (shortly before the land was sold) the site was prepared for construction of the consulate office, a stone supporting wall was built around the place, but the building itself wasn’t erased. However, there is an evidence that all those years the Russian Vice Consulate was located in a house rented from a person named Sakomo Ofusataro.

 In 1923 the Russian Vice Consulate in Busan was closed and in 1935 all the Russian land plots in Busan were sold. For the moment we have not managed to find any photographs of the employees of the Russian Vice Consulate in Busan. The available documents allow us only to revive their names and the chronology of their work in Korea.

 Since 1903 Vice-Consul in Masan G.A. Kozakov was in charge of Busan affairs. In 1904 he signed documents under the letterhead of the “Imperial Russian Vice Consulate in Fusan (Busan)”.

 In November 1906 F.I. Vasiliev was appointed as an Imperial Consul to Busan. In 1915 he was replaced by Vice-Consul V.A. Skorodumov.

 Most of the information we could find is about Fyodor Ivanovich Vasiliev. He was a professional orientalist, “attended a complete course of the ChineseManchu-Mongolian studies at the Faculty of Oriental Languages” of the St. Petersburg University. He worked in the Asian Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and abroad – in the Russian mission in Tokyo, as a vice-consul in Kobe. In January 1906 he was appointed a consul to Busan and took office in October 1906. In April 1915 – transferred as a consul to Dalian.

 The existing documents help us to better understand the work of the Russian consuls of that time. It consisted mostly of providing assistance to Russian citizens and developing trade cooperation with the southern regions of Korea.

 According to their reports, ties between the Russian Far East (primarily Vladivostok) and the southern regions of Korea were already actively developing at that time.

  On July 26, 1916 the Association for the East Asian Trade Studies was established in Busan. Prominent Busan merchants were members of this organization. Clerical functions were performed by the Busan Chamber of Commerce. On August 24, 1916 five members of the Association, engaged in rice, fruit, salt, rubber and canning industries, left Busan for Vladivostok and Khabarovsk to investigate the prospect of trade with Russia on-site.

 From 1913 till 1915 Asian Russia was the second (after Japan) most important recipient of the export products shipped through the port of Busan. Such goods as rice, salt, fresh and dried fish, tobacco and various medicinal materials were exported to Vladivostok.

 Russian import mostly consisted of such goods as chum salmon and other fish, seaweed, and fish fertilizers was not so big in volume. Meanwhile certain Russian products were well known in Korea. For example, Russian herring, both fresh and salted, was very popular. Vice-Consul V.A. Skorodumov noted that “for every holiday, such as the autumn holiday “Chuseok”, which lasts several days, for the Korean New Year, for any celebration or ceremony, wedding or funeral, every Korean is sure to buy herring for his table. Even the cheap local fish pollock, which is popular in Korea, is not able to significantly influence the demand for herring.”

Monument to the Site of the Former Russian Deputy Consulate, in current Wolpo Elementary School, Masan
Monument to the Site of the Former Russian Deputy Consulate, in current Wolpo Elementary School, Masan

 Discussing the prospects of bilateral trade, Korean merchants expressed their desire to have the following Russian goods on their market: aspen wood for matches, dairy products, cow butter and window glass. They proposed to export to the Russian Far East regions such goods as various products of sea, including fish, shells, different breeds of crayfish, algae and sea grasses, used both for fertilizers and for the preparation of medicines, canned fish and crayfish, fruits, salt, soybeans, mats, wood and bamboo products, baskets, paper and tobacco. The Russian consuls in Busan highly praised the quality of Korean paper, which, in their opinion, due to its strength, fibrousness and resistance to cold could be in great demand in Russia.

 The history of the Russian consular mission in Busan definitely deserves further research. The documents at our disposal contain a lot of interesting information, but there are still many questions, which we would like to find answers to. The Korean archives might also contain some documents that can shed light on this issue.

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