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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 so happened that the 21st scientific conference of Korean and Russian scientists on the theme "Korea facing new challenges" was opened in Moscow, at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences 30 March - the same day that the Seoul city court decided to arrest Ms. Pak Kun He, Who was most recently President of the Republic of Korea (South Korea). Twenty days before his arrest, Pak Kun Hye was formally deprived of his high office by the decision of the Republican Constitutional Court, which approved her impeachment proclaimed by the South Korean parliament. As part of the criminal prosecution, the former president is accused, among other things, of bribery and abuse of power.

"Will the resignation of Pak Kun Hye to the curtailment of economic relations between the RK and Russia in the Far East?" On this issue, the opinions of the participants of the all-Russian scientific conference "Korea facing new challenges" were sharply divided, and the discussion itself became perhaps the most stormy on the forum.

The fact is that in 2013, at the dawn of their presidency, Park Geun-hye proclaimed the so-called “Eurasian Initiative” - a course aimed at integrating Asian and European countries and creating conditions for settling relations with the socialist ideologically hostile to RK. 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 renewed 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 Torahs and the free port of Vladivostok. Ask, and what is the benefit of all this to the Koreans? First, they will once again confirm to the whole world the highest quality and environmental friendliness of their products, which work excellently even in the harsh conditions of the Russian Far East. Second, they optimize their costs with the help of the preferential modes of TOP and SPV, as well as through relatively cheap Russian energy resources and labor. Third, 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 for 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: "We are not interested in them"
The opinion of the colleague was categorically rejected by the leading researcher of the Center for Korean Studies of the Institute of the Far East Evgeny Kim, who became one of Petrovsky's main opponents at the conference. Kim's main thesis: South Korea does not seek to cooperate actively with Russia in the Far East - first, because it disapproves of its main strategic ally and patron - the United States, who view Russia as its geopolitical rival, therefore are not interested in the successful development of its Economy; Secondly - because of the disappointment of Korean businessmen in Russian law enforcement practice in relation to business.

- Starting around 1988, we are just doing that we are talking about the possibility of effective investments of South Korea in our Far East. But no serious economic cooperation has been established since then. On the contrary, everyone has heard only examples of failed joint projects: the South Korean technopark in the free economic zone "Nakhodka" has not been built, however, like the zone itself, in the shipbuilding mega-project based on the Zvezda plant in the Great Stone of the South- The Korean company DSME eventually refused to participate, the plant for production of electric grid equipment built near Vladivostok, built more than three years ago by Hyundai, was never launched, to the reconstruction of the cross-border crossing Khasan-Rajin (together with Russia And the DPRK), the Republic of Korea did not join, and the Xuanxian K Harmone and our Far Eastern Marine Research Institute project, the Busan-Rotterdam high-speed railroad project, was safely forgotten, "Yevgeny Kim explained his skepticism.

Alignment in Kaluga
Such extreme points of view expressed by recognized experts in 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 the restrained optimism can be the fact that Russia already has regions - though in the European part of the country - capable of boasting productive economic ties with South Korea: factories for the production of home appliances - Samsung Electronics and EL 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 not ruled out that the stable sprouts of South Korean investments will take root also on the eastern outskirts of Russia, where the government is struggling to attract foreign capital with the help of TORs and the regime of the free port.

EastRussia help. In the period from January to November 2016, the trade turnover 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 by the US and the European Union. South Korea, although it did not support them, de facto has to reckon with the position of Washington, which is not interested in making its East Asian satellite more active in economic relations with sub-Russia.