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Relations and cooperation between Korea and Russia continue to grow

기사승인 2018.01.10  17:30:37

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- An exclusive interview with Ambassador Alexander Timonin of Russia in Seoul

The Republic of Korea (south) and North Korea are coming closer to each other these days mainly thanks to the tireless efforts of President Moon Jae-in to end the status of stand-off between the two Koreas. Especially with the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics not very far away, government representatives of Seoul and Pyongyang are meeting with each other for the facilitation of the participation of the North Korean team in the largest international winter sports event.
President Moon Jae-in has an inveterate desire for the promotion of peace and co-prosperity on the Korean peninsula and this mind of his ties in beautifully with the thinking on the part of leadership of the Russian Federation, and especially Ambassador of Russia in Seoul Aleksander Timonin.

Clockwise from top left: (1) President Moon Jae-in of Korea (left) shakes hands with President Vladimir Putin of Russia on the sidelines of G20 Summit in Hamburg; (2) President Moon (left) shakes hands with Ambassador Alexander Timonin of Russia; (3) President Putin (right) shakes hands with Rep. Song Young-gil (special envoy of President Moon on May 24, 2017; and (4) Ambassador Timonin (left) and Chairman of Song Young-gil of the Presidential Committee on Northern Economic Cooperation in May, 2017.

For more than 30 years my professional activity was inextricably connected with the Korean peninsula,“ said Ambassador Timonin at a recent exclusive interview with The Korea Post media.
He said: “During this time, I held various posts in the Russian embassies in Seoul and Pyongyang. In 2004-2006, I was the deputy head of the Russian delegation to the six-party talks, in 2011 Ambassador at Large of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs overseeing the development of trilateral cooperation (Russia, the Republic of Korea and the DPRK), in 2012-2014 as the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Russia to North Korea and since January 2015, I am the Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the Republic of Korea."
So do we have a better person in the who world who can bridge gaps between Seoul and Pyongyang?
Details of questions and answers at the time follow:

President Moon Jae-in of Korea (left) discusses with President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation on ways to increase cooperation between the two countries at a meeting in Vladivostok on Sept. 6, 2017. (Cheong Wa Dae photo)
President Moon of Korea and President Putin of Russia (left and right) had a one-hour-and-a-quarter-hour summit on Sept. 6, 2017, and agreed with each other to develop the bilateral relations into those of true strategic partners. (Cheong Wa Dae photo)

Question: What is the impression of your Head of Government concerning President Moon Jae-in? If there have been any remarks made by your Head of Government concerning President Moon, please elaborate.
Answer:
As you know, the President of the Republic of Korea has repeatedly stressed the important stabilizing role of Russia on the Korean Peninsula and in the Northeast Asia. He also spoke in favor of strengthening the strategic partnership with our country, focusing on the joint implementation of major economic projects in Siberia and the Far East, in particular, in such spheres as energy and transport.
This includes development of the Northern Sea Route and the Arctic, investment cooperation in the Russian Far East, interaction in the field of agriculture and fisheries. At the same time, Mr. Moon Jae-in has repeatedly expressed his interest in the development of trilateral projects in the transport, logistics, gas and electricity sectors with the participation of the ROK, DPRK and Russia as the inter-Korean dialogue progresses.

President Moon Jae-in of Korea holding a Joseon Dynasty sword is all smiles after reciving as a gift from President Putin of Russia (second from left, foreground).The Korena sword was made in the 1800s. This Korean sword had been taken out of Korea into the United States in the 1950s and was purchased by a Russian. The Russian government has thenced obtained the sword and presented it to President Moon Jae-in to his 'great delight' (as seen from his big smiles). (Cheong Wa Dae photo)

The leadership of Russia highly appreciates the desire of the Korean President and his Administration to develop all-round cooperation with Russia. The President of the Russian Federation, Mr. Vladimir Putin, having met with President Moon Jae-in twice--in July in Hamburg "on the sidelines" of the G20 summit and in September in Vladivostok in the framework of the Third Eastern Economic Forum--expressed his satisfaction with the results of the talks, stressing their effectiveness and openness, and confirmed the readiness to maintain regular contacts with the South Korean leader. Close personal contact established between the heads of Russia and the Republic of Korea makes it possible to look forward to intensifying joint efforts for new quality and dynamics in bilateral interaction.

The Russian Federation takes strong interest in the promotion of economic cooperation with Korea. Photo shows President Vladimir Putin of Russia (left) pressing a button with Chairman Chung Mong-koo of Hyundai Motor Group at the ground-breaking ceremony of a motor plant in Russia.
Hyundai motor Manufacturing RUS Grand Opening Ceremony

Q: Please introduce the Head of Government of your esteemed country in detail, including major achievements.
A:
Mr. Vladimir Putin is an international scale politician whose activities are well known outside the Russian Federation, including the Republic of Korea. As for the achievements, the stable high level of trust enjoyed by the Russian President among the citizens of the country is more convincing than any words of politicians and diplomats.
According to data from the latest sociological polls concerning perception of the main achievements of our leader, Russians point out comprehensive modernization of the Armed Forces, effective fight against terrorism, successful implementation of social and economic reforms, restoration of control over natural resources, stabilization of state power, strengthening of the country’s international position and, of course, the reintegration of the Crimea.
As is known, within the framework of the Presidential election campaign officially launched in Russia, Mr. Vladimir Putin again puts forward his candidacy for the head of state post. His support rating among Russian citizens today is 80 percent. I think that says it all.

http://eng.putin.kremlin.ru/bio

President Moon Jae-in (right) presents President Vladimir Putin (left) with the Mascot Couple of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, Soohorang Tigress in traditional Korean multi colors and Bandabi Bear wearing the Hat of three Russian colors (blue, red and white).

Q: What is the present volume of bilateral trade, its outlook in the next 12 months?
A:
The bilateral trade volume for 11 months of 2017 is 17.1 billion US dollars which is 42% more than for the same period of previous year. I should admit the positive trend of constant growth of bilateral trade in 2017. Considering general improvement of the state of the global market and the recent activities of Russian and Korean governments aimed at providing better investment climate I have all the reasons to believe that bilateral trade volume in 2018 will surpass the record of 2014 which was 25,8 billion US dollars.

President Moon Jae-in (second from left) shakes hands with Ambassador Alexander Timonin of Russia (third from left).

Q: What are the areas in your country where Korean companies are wanted to invest?
A:
Korean investors are most interested in joint projects based on international production cooperation in Russian Far East such as development of industrial capacities, construction of port facilities, shipbuilding ship service centers. Korea considers it important to participate in Russian regional infrastructure projects such as construction of highways and power plants.
I think that oil and gas chemistry, word-processing, pulp and paper industry, fish and seafood processing are the important spheres for investment cooperation. The Russian-Korean cooperation in peaceful use of nuclear energy is also developing with great pace.
In upcoming years, Russia and Korea are determined to forge reliable technological and industrial alliances, to promote joint investments in infrastructure, energy and to develop bilateral scientific projects. Russia is interested in Korean participation in large-scale projects aimed at development of processing and high-end industry.

Ambassador Timonin of Russia in Seoul (right) shakes hands with Publisher-Chairman Lee Kyung-sik of The Korea Post media, publisher of 3 English and 2 Korean-language news media outlets established 33 years ago in 1985.

Q: Economic cooperation is very important between countries today, and Korea is no exception. Who are the major Korean companies actively engaged in bilateral economic cooperation between Korea and Russia? Please introduce them in detail in the order of size and scale of business activities.
A:
I would name Hyundai Motors as one of the most well-known Korean brands in our country. Hyundai Motors assembly facility in Sankt-Petersburg in 2016 was awarded best among all the Hyundai Motors enterprises worldwide.
It manufactures the most popular models in Russia, “Hyundai Solaris” and “Kia Rio”. I would also appreciate the company’s desire to expand its activities in Russia. A vivid example of such move is the Agreement signed by Hyundai Motors and Russian Avtotor Holding to launch the manufacturing of Hyundai vehicles in Kaliningrad.
The Samsung Electronics Factory has been operating in Kaluga region since 2007. In 2015 Samsung Electronics received fifth in a row award as Russia customer’s most favored brand. Samsung is well received for high standards and qualities and they are in great demand in Russia domestic market.

Chairman Shin Dong-bin of the Lotte Business Group of Korea cuts ribbons with Russian dignitaries at the Grand Opening of the Lotte Hotel St. Petersburg on Sept. 15, 2017
Chairman Shin Dong-bin of the Lotte Business Group (11th from left) cuts ribbons with Russian dignitaries at the Grand Opening Ceremony of Lotte Hotel St. Petersburg on Sept.15, 2017.

In recognition of successful activities in Russia, Samsung Electronics was granted a seat in the Foreign Investment Advisory Council chaired by the Prime Minister of Russia. I am convinced that this move will expedite the investment cooperation between our countries.
The cooperation in shipbuilding industry is a great example of long-term bilateral partnership. Samsung Heavy Industry shipyards are fulfilling Russian Sovkomflot Company contract by building a series of ice-class arctic shuttle tankers. In 2017 Hyndai Heavy Industry--one of the leaders of Korean shipbuilding industry--won a bid for 200-million USD worth contract for building four tankers of 115 thousand tons displacement, which are planned to be engaged in transporting crude oil from Sakhalin.
At present more than 600 Korean companies well known for high standards of quality and reasonable prices are doing business in Russia. Lotte Group’s “Lotte Confectionery”, “Doshirak-Ryazan” and KT&G Tobaco factory in Borovskiy District of Kaluga Region are good examples of such cooperation.

President Moon Jae-in (right, foreground) shakes hands with Prime Minister Dmitri Medbedef of the Russian Federation at an international conference in Manila, the Philippines, on Nov. 14, 2017. (Cheong Wa Dae photo)

Q: What is the present volume of bilateral trade, its outlook in the next 12 months?
A:
The bilateral trade volume for 11 months of 2017 is 17.1 billion US dollars which is 42% more than for the same period of previous year. I should admit the positive trend of constant growth of bilateral trade in 2017. Considering general improvement of the state of the global market and the recent activities of Russian and Korean governments aimed at providing better investment climate I have all the reasons to believe that bilateral trade volume in 2018 will surpass the record of 2014 which was 25,8 billion US dollars.

RTO Open Ceremony of LG Group

Q: What are the areas in your country where Korean companies are wanted to invest?
A:
Korean investors are most interested in joint projects based on international production cooperation in Russian Far East such as development of industrial capacities, construction of port facilities, shipbuilding ship service centers. Korea considers it important to participate in Russian regional infrastructure projects such as construction of highways and power plants.
I think that oil and gas chemistry, word-processing, pulp and paper industry, fish and seafood processing are the important spheres for investment cooperation. The Russian-Korean cooperation in peaceful use of nuclear energy is also developing with great pace.
In upcoming years, Russia and Korea are determined to forge reliable technological and industrial alliances, to promote joint investments in infrastructure, energy and to develop bilateral scientific projects. Russia is interested in Korean participation in large-scale projects aimed at development of processing and high-end industry.

President Moon Jae-in (right foreground) and President Vladimir Putin of Russia (on the left of President Moon) are visiting the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics Information Building on the Street of the Far East in Vladivostok on Sept. 6, 2017.

Q: What Russian products and/or services are the most attractive for the Republic of Korea? Are there South Korean companies that sell Russian products in the Republic of Korea? Who are South Korean businessmen involved in the sale of Russian products and services in Korea?
A:
One of the most remarkable examples of long-term business partnership between our countries is the fruitful activity of the world-known Russian company “Gazprom” in the South Korean market. “Gazprom” and Korean Gas Corporation (KOGAS) signed an Agreement in 2016 on cooperation to provide realization of projects on production, transportation and regasification of liquid natural gas. Besides, key directions of the further bilateral cooperation were set out in the spheres of scientific and technical cooperation, energy preservation, ecology and natural gas motor fuel production.
I should also mention an active work of “Izotop” organization, a part of the “Rosatom” state corporation, which provides the isotope of molybdenum-100 to South Korea.

Samsung Group and Russia are also stepping up cooperation in the development of LPG shipbuilding.
A naming ceremony for the new SCF Tanker Nikolay Zuev is held at the Samsung Shipyard in Busan.

According to the long-term agreement, the isotope of molybdenum-100 is to be supplied until 2019.
Russia and the Republic of Korea are the nations with highly developed technologies in the sphere of nuclear energy. Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation is operating successfully in the Korean market exporting enriched uranium for atomic power stations in South Korea. Besides, cooperation between Russian and South Korean nuclear scientists in the sphere of creation of reactors on fast neurons appears to be prospective.

First Lady Kim Jung-sook of Korea (left, foreground) speaks with Korean residents in Russia during her visit to a Culture Center of the Korean residents in Russia. (Cheong Wa Dae photo)

Russian Helicopter Company is expanding its positions in South Korean market and in 2016 and signed the Memorandum of understanding with South Korean company RH Focus Corp, which grants South Korean partners the right to provide all kinds of aftersales service of Russian, made helicopters in the Republic of Korea. The partners are planning to build service center capable of providing all kind of aftersales operations in Korea.
Since 1993 Korea has bought more than 60 Russian helicopters Ка-32 that is about 26% of overall amount of civil helicopters in the country. These helicopters conduct a wide range of missions for a number of Korean state agencies including fire prevention and search and rescue operations as well as special operations of National Police and offshore zone patrol. Ка-32 helicopters are also used by commercial services as “flying cranes” fulfilling construction and installation operations.
RAIDIX Russian manufacturer of data storage system is successfully competing with leading foreign companies on the high-tech market of the Republic of Korea. In April, 2017 RAIDIX company delivered data storage system (DSS) to Korean “Seoul Semiconductor” company (ranks among Top 5 of global LED manufacturers) that considers the solution of Russian manufacturer as the most functional and convenient in use.

Beautiful view of mountain river in Russia.

Q: What are the most attractive tourist sites in Russia that you can recommend to travelers from the Republic of Korea?
A:
Some time ago, the presentation of Russia’s tourist potential took place in Seoul. The representatives of the regions of our country and tourist organizations gave detailed information about the most popular tourist destinations. Russia is very big and varied country. I think that every tourist form Korea even the one with high demands will be able find a city or a region that will meet all his or her expectations. Apart from the world-known Moscow and Saint Petersburg we have so-called Golden ring cities famous for unique historical and architect landmarks. Far East regions with their varied nature and sanctuaries of universal importance also have a great potential. Mountain ski resorts in Sochi, Ural, Altay and Sakhalin are developing with high pace. In Russia we have such a proverb “Seeing once is better than hearing twice” and I recommend to all of your readers to come to our country at least once to see for themselves how big and varied Russia is. I am sure that nobody will be dissatisfied. I would also like to exploit this opportunity and to invite all the South Koreans to visit Russia during the FIFA 2018 World cup, which is scheduled to take place in Russia from 14 June to 15 July 2018. I am convinced that during the tournament South Korean tourists will be able to personally see round Russian sightseeing and learn more about our country's traditions and culture.

Beautiful night view of city international business center and Bagration bridge with Moskva river, Moscow
The Kul Sharif Mosque in Kazan

Q: Please introduce Your Excellency in full, including your family.
A:
In 1975, after graduating from the Institute for Asian and African Studies at the Moscow State University with the Korean Studies major, I had been engaged in academic research and teaching for five years, published several books and about 50 articles on history, politics and economy of Korea, peace and security in the Asia-Pacific.
Thus, for more than 30 years my professional activity was inextricably connected with the Korean peninsula. During this time, I held various posts in Russian embassies in the Republic of Korea and the DPRK.

Ambassador Aleksandr Timonin (right) and Mrs. Natalia Timonina (left) of Russia in Seoul.

In 2004-2006, I was deputy head of the Russian delegation to the six-party talks, in 2011, Ambassador at Large of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs overseeing the development of trilateral cooperation (Russia, the Republic of Korea and the DPRK), in 2012-2014 worked as the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Russia to North Korea. Since January 2015, I am the Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the Republic of Korea.

Ambassador Timonin of Russia in Seoul (third from left) poses with the members of the interviewing team of The Korea Post media. They are from left, Korean-language Reporter Kim Chul-hoon, Publisher-Chairman Lee Kyung-sik of The Korea Post media, (Amb. Timonin), Second Secretary Oleg S. Pirozhenko of the Russian Embassy, Press Officer Second Secretary Daniil Chekhlan of the Russian Embassy and Korean-language Editor Kim Tae-moon of The Korea Post.

Russian approaches to settlement of the situation on Korean Peninsula

I would also mention such important aspect of Russian Korean cooperation as interaction in settlement of the situation on Korean Peninsula. We welcome the agreements reached at a high-level meeting between North Korea and South Korea held on January 9th in Panmunjom, including ones regarding the participation of North Korean athletes in the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. We hope that the implementation of these agreements will help defuse tensions on the Korean Peninsula and strengthen security on the Northeast Asia.

This is the goal of joint Russian-Chinese roadmap on a comprehensive settlement for the Korean Peninsula which provides for the mutual renunciation of dangerous military activities by the United States and North Korea in the interests of creating a suitable atmosphere for launching talks that are ultimately aimed at creating a collective peace and security system in Northeast Asia. In particular, at the first stage we propose to “freeze” all the confrontational activities primarily the military ones whether it is missile launches, nuclear tests or organization of large-scale military drills. After this freeze has come into force, we will actively support the direct contacts between the most interested parties namely the USA and the DPRK. We urge all the states concerned to join the efforts aimed at the implementation of the Russian-Chinese roadmap on a comprehensive settlement for the Korean Peninsula.

In the longer perspective the Russian Federation considers it is necessary to elaborate a comprehensive treaty on peace and security in Northeast Asia. Its core idea should be providing security guarantees to all the regional countries including North Korea. I am convinced that such multilateral treaty should presume not only political but legal obligations for the participants. I suppose that such mechanism could become one of the pillars of the architecture of the future regional security system in the whole Asia-Pacific area. In general, our approaches correspond with the initiative of the Platform for peace and cooperation in Northeast Asia actively promoted by the President Moon Jae-in.

I should admit that the tensions on the Korean Peninsula had been raising for the whole 2017. In contradiction with the UN Security Council Resolutions and warnings form the neighboring countries North Korea had continued nuclear and missile tests for the whole year 2017. Besides the United States and the Republic of Korea had carried a number of large-scale military drills. The THAAD missile defense complexes which are actually the components of the American global missile defense system had been deployed in the Republic of Korea. We consider that regular redeployment of the US strategic assets to the Korean Peninsula as well as installment of the American missile defense batteries are the steps greatly surpassing the goals of military deterrence of North Korea.

Russia resolutely reject the self-proclaimed nuclear status of North Korea and we frankly explain to our North Korean partners that their course at further development of nuclear and missile technologies is unacceptable for us. I am convinced that such actions by no way strengthen the national security vice versa they will only lead to unpredictable consequences for North Korea as well as for the situation in the whole region. Russia considers it is justified that the UN Security Council sanctions have been imposed against North Korea presuming that sanctions are the tool to engage North Korea into dialogue.

But we also have our own “red lines”. First of all, by no way sanctions should be considered as a kind of “certificate” for military actions against North Korea. Second, we are resolutely against the situation when the regime of full-scale isolation of the DPRK is imposed under the pretext of sanctions.

Moreover, we consider it is absolutely counterproductive to forge international coalitions against North Korea. For us it is obvious that all the calculations presuming that sanctions or pressure will sooner or later lead to the collapse of North Korean regime or force the North Korean leadership to make a considerable concessions in principle matters are wrong. External pressure could only urge Pyongyang to harden its positions. In this regard we negatively asses plans to hold in Vancouver a meeting of representatives of the member countries of the coalition of the Korean War of 1950-1953. We cannot help but regard this idea as especially inappropriate against the backdrop of recent signs of movement towards dialogue between the North and South of the Korean Peninsula. Moreover, such moves could provoke harsh retaliation Pyongyang and only derail prospects for settlement of the situation on Korean Peninsula. I am convinced that the only alternative to the “force” scenario is to continue diplomatic efforts aimed to return of the DPRK to the negotiation table od six-party talks. Although it also goes without saying that until the real security threat form the United States and US hostile attitude towards North Korea continues to exist Pyongyang by no way will refuse from its nuclear and missile programs. That is why we are convinced that the denuclearization of the DPRK should be fulfilled along with process of military-political detente, easing of confrontation and forming new principles of mutual trust between regional states.

Lee Kyung-sik edt@koeapost.com

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