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Korea: an open question

Scientists argue: is there any incentive for South Korea to invest in the Far East

Discussion on the topic: "Will the resignation of South Korean President Pak Kun Hee to the curtailment of economic cooperation with Russia in the Far East?" Was perhaps the most stormy in the framework of the XXI scientific conference "Korea facing new challenges" that took place in the last days of March in Moscow .

Korea: an open question
Photo: Former President of the Republic of Korea Pak Kun He / TASS / VEF Photobank
Advocated for Eurasianism
It just so happened that the XXI Scientific Conference of Korean Studies in Russia and the CIS on the topic "Korea Facing New Challenges" opened in Moscow, at the Institute of Far Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences on March 30 - the very day when the Seoul city court decided to arrest Mrs. Park Geun-hye. the former president of the Republic of Korea (South Korea). Twenty days before her arrest, Park Geun-hye was formally stripped of her high position by a decision of the Republican Constitutional Court, which upheld her impeachment, announced by the South Korean parliament. As part of the criminal prosecution, the ex-president is accused, among other things, of bribery and abuse of power.

"Will the resignation of Pak Geun-hye lead to the curtailment of economic relations between Kazakhstan and Russia in the Far East?" On this issue, the opinions of the participants in the All-Russian Scientific Conference "Korea Facing New Challenges" were sharply divided, and the discussion itself became, perhaps, the most heated at the forum.

The fact is that in 2013, at the dawn of her presidency, Park Geun-hye proclaimed the so-called "Eurasian Initiative" - ​​a course aimed at integrating the countries of Asia and Europe and creating conditions for normalizing relations with the ideologically hostile socialist North Korea (DPRK).

The "Eurasian initiative" implies, in particular, the active involvement and development of logistics capacities of the Russian Far East, in particular - the Trans-Siberian Railway, ports of Primorye and the Amur Region, the Northern Sea Route. This is very much in tune with the Far Eastern economic policy of the Russian government, which, through the creation of the territories of advanced development (TOR) and the Free Vladivostok Port (SPV) regime in the region, aims to integrate the region into the economies of the countries of the Asia-Pacific region, to establish a stable inflow of foreign ones, Number of South Korean investments.

The peak of mutual understanding was at the second Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok (September 2016), when Mrs. Pak Kin Hee, at a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, concretized the spheres of economic cooperation with Russia in the Far East: logistics, social infrastructure, fishing industry, agriculture, tourism , Health.

Petrovsky: "Korea cannot do without us"
At the conference "Korea before new challenges" the most active and vivid supporter of the view that with the removal from power Pak Kin Hee "Eurasian initiative" will remain a strategic course for the new leadership of South Korea (early presidential elections in Kazakhstan should take place in May) The chief researcher of the Center for the Study and Forecasting of Russian-Chinese Relations of the Institute of the Far East of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Doctor of Political Sciences, Vladimir Petrovsky. In his report, and later in private conversation with an ER correspondent, he stressed that the objective economic realities, in particular the need for a more active exit of the growing export-oriented economy of South Korea, inevitably pushed it towards cooperation with Russia and the countries of the Eurasian Economic Union as a whole.

- Such cooperation is very beneficial for the Russian Far East, as it involves the modernization of the local transport and logistics infrastructure, which has not been seriously updated since Soviet times, as well as the introduction of advanced South Korean "green" (environmentally friendly) technologies in various industries. And here, in my opinion, it is necessary to rely on the TOPs and the free port of Vladivostok. Ask what the Koreans benefit from all this? First, they will once again confirm to the whole world the highest quality and environmental friendliness of their products, which work perfectly even in the harsh conditions of the Russian Far East. Secondly, they optimize their costs with the help of preferential regimes of ASEZ and FPV, as well as at the expense of relatively cheap Russian energy carriers and labor. Thirdly, they will have (at least very much hope for it) direct access to a huge market in the directions - Central Asia, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, - Vladimir Petrovsky argued his position.

According to him, already today the share of goods turnover between the Republic of Korea and the Far East of Russia is about 40% of the total bilateral trade turnover, and more than half of the entire inbound tourist flow to this country consists of tourists from Russia.

Kim: "They're not interested in us"
Leading researcher at the Center for Korean Studies at the Institute of the Far East, Yevgeny Kim, who became one of Petrovsky's main opponents at the conference, categorically disagreed with his colleague's opinion. Kim's main thesis: South Korea does not seek to actively cooperate with Russia in the Far East - firstly, because this is sickening to its main strategic ally and patron, the United States, which views Russia as its geopolitical rival, and therefore are not interested in its successful development. economics; secondly, because of the disappointment of Korean businessmen with Russian law enforcement practice in relation to business.

- Since about 1988, all we have been doing is talking about the possibility of effective investment by South Korea in our Far East. But since then no serious economic cooperation has been established. On the contrary, everyone has heard only examples of failed joint projects: the South Korean technopark in the Nakhodka free economic zone was never built, however, like the zone itself, in the shipbuilding mega-project based on the Zvezda plant in Bolshoy Kamen South the Korean company DSME ultimately refused to participate, the plant for the production of electric grid equipment near Vladivostok, built by Hyundai more than three years ago, was never launched, the Republic of Korea did not join the reconstruction of the Hasan-Rajin cross-border crossing (jointly with Russia and the DPRK), and the project of the Busan-Rotterdam high-speed railway, developed in 2012 by the South Korean company K Harmone and our Far Eastern Research Institute of the Marine Fleet, was safely forgotten, - Evgeny Kim justified his skepticism.

Alignment in Kaluga
Such extreme points of view expressed by recognized experts on the Asia-Pacific region make it difficult to make any unambiguous predictions about the effectiveness of the Russian-Korean partnership in the Far East in the near future. However, the reason for restrained optimism may be the fact that there are already regions in Russia - albeit in the European part of the country - that can boast productive economic ties with South Korea: factories for the production of household appliances - Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics - in the Kaluga and Moscow regions, the Hyundai Motor car assembly plant in St. Petersburg, the Lotte Group hotel and trade complex in Moscow. It is possible that stable sprouts of South Korean investment will take root in the eastern outskirts of Russia, where the government is struggling to attract foreign capital with the help of TORs and the free port regime.

EastRussia help. In the period from January to November 2016, trade between Russia and the Republic of Korea decreased by 17,5% and reached $ 13,69 billion. Experts attribute the negative dynamics to the indirect impact of anti-Russian sanctions from the United States and the European Union. Although South Korea did not support them, de facto it is forced to reckon with the position of Washington, which is not interested in its East Asian satellite activating economic relations with the sanctioned Russia.

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