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Asian direction

"The Far East is not a region, it's almost a continent"

Asian direction

Consul General of the Republic of Korea in the Far East of Russia, Lee Yang Gu shared with plans for joint economic development of countries. According to him, in the first quarter of 2014, the tourist flow between Russia and Korea increased by 25-30%.

- Mr. Li, you know Russian well and have extensive experience in Russia. How does Russia at the end of the 1990s, in your opinion, differ from today's, and how does the Far Eastern Federal District differ from the capital? Where is it easier and more interesting for you to work?

- The first time I visited the Far East in 1994 year. I was in Khabarovsk. Twenty years later, the city is much cleaner, and the economic situation in the region has become much better. In addition, the city has prospects for development.

The Far East was positively influenced by the holding of the APEC summit. This was the impetus for the discovery of a new history of Far Eastern Russia. Vladivostok has turned into an international city, where major projects are being implemented.

During my career, I worked in Moscow, Los Angeles and Paris. Each city has its own plus: Moscow is the capital of Russia, the center of politics, diplomacy and culture. But in Vladivostok and the Far East in general, people are kinder. In addition, in the east of Russia beautiful nature.

- What are the priorities of your work?

- I believe that it is necessary to focus on the economic cooperation of our countries. The economy plays the role of an engine between Russia and the Republic of Korea. First of all, it is logistics, trade, fishing, energy and agriculture. For example, Korean enterprises operate in Primorsky Krai (logistics from Primorye is most convenient for Korea) in the field of agriculture. Cultural interaction and consular cooperation also play a big role.

Together with the Russian side, we managed to work out an investment plan for the development of the Far East and published a book on this topic six months ago in Korean. So, among the projects is the modernization of the commercial seaport for the transportation of goods to South Korea. Most likely, it will be one of the ports of the Primorsky Territory. Korea is also interested in modernizing or building a grain terminal in the Russian Far East. This will help develop cooperation between our countries in the field of agriculture. Now grain is exported to Korea from Russia in the amount of 5 thousand tons per year. An obstacle to increasing export volumes is an underdeveloped infrastructure. I mean not only grain shipping terminals, but also elevators, grain warehouses ... But our plans are optimistic.

- What is the brightest difference of Russians from Koreans? What traditions, habits, and skills would it be good for us to adopt from each other?

- It is difficult to talk about this. In the sphere of economy, Koreans prefer short-term projects, while Russians prefer long-term projects. This is due to the fact that Russians are more tolerant than Koreans. People of both nations are hospitable. Koreans note, Russians are not very nice, but this is only the first impression.

We have much in common. But Korea is more interested in applied technologies, and Russia is more global, fundamental. These are mutually complementary things, and they must be taken from each other.

- In your interviews you said that one of your main tasks is to develop cooperation between Russia and the Republic of Korea at the regional level. You managed to visit almost all the subjects of the Far Eastern Federal District, conducted negotiations with their leadership on specific cooperation programs. Are there any projects that have already started?

- We need to focus on specific projects such as the construction or modernization of the grain terminal in Primorye and the modernization of the airport in Khabarovsk (Incheon owns 10% of the charter capital of the airport).

- Russia and Korea have moved to a visa-free version of the relationship. What results did it give, what effect do you expect in the future?

- Visa-free regime improves relations between the Republic of Korea and Russia. According to unofficial data, in the I quarter of 2014, we are seeing an increase in the tourist flow at 25-30%. But while it's cold, winter and early spring are not a season for tourists. In summer, we expect an increase in passenger traffic.

Koreans see Russia as a European country. For us, Russia, its Far East is already Europe. Koreans are interested in the history of the Far East, they are fascinated by global Russian projects, such as the Trans-Siberian Railway, which runs through the Far East. 

- Your compatriot Victor An became the winner of the Olympics in Sochi, having accepted Russian citizenship. Did you root for Ana at the Olympics?

- It does not matter the citizenship of Victor, most importantly - the result, which he achieved. All Koreans are very proud of his victory. Victor knows that the whole country is ill for him. And the change of citizenship allows us to deepen relations between our countries.

Korea is a small country. It is not always possible to find a job with growth prospects. Therefore, someone wants to immigrate abroad in order to provide for themselves and their family. Motivation is almost always the same: the implementation of their plans, the achievement of their dreams.

- How do you build work with Russians of Korean nationality, which are very many, for example, on Sakhalin? What cultural, educational, scientific programs are carried out with the support of the Consulate General?

- The image of Russians of Korean nationality helps us - the Koreans - to work in Russia. Partly thanks to these people, we are very warmly received here.

The cultural and educational centers of the Republic of Korea operate in Vladivostok, Khabarovsk and Sakhalin. We accept Russian delegations from students to Korea to study our language and get to know the culture of Korea. In addition, we invite delegations of the Russian media to their country. Korean journalists also visit Russia.

- In Russia there is an institute of honorary consuls of Korea (in the Urals - in Yekaterinburg). What responsibilities are assigned to them and what assistance do they give to the embassy and consulate?

- The honorary consuls represent the Republic of Korea and its interests, form its image. Their competence includes economic cooperation between our countries.

So far, Korea has no plans to open new consulates in Russian cities. This is a difficult question, but it seems to me that for development we need to create a consulate in Khabarovsk, since there is not enough one consulate in all of eastern Russia. The Far East is not a region, it is almost a continent.

- Which of the Russian writers, artists or musicians do you like the most? Do your children learn Russian?

- All Koreans love the books of Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Anton Chekhov, the music of Tchaikovsky, the paintings of Repin. I myself love Tolstoy's “War and Peace” and Pasternak's “Zhivago”.

My children are learning Russian, but they still do not speak it well. Especially the younger daughter tries, she, without my help, teaches him.
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