[FOUNTAIN]Competition for Russia’s resourcesRussia’s place in history was always related to its abundant resources. In ancient and medieval times, hunters and merchants flocked to Russia for fur-bearing animals. In the modern age, neighboring powers competed to secure strategic resources such as wood, petroleum, gold and steel.
The war over resources encouraged “marriage diplomacy” in Europe, and countries competed to open legations in Russia. Members of most European royal houses were related to the Romanovs. Many countries competed to build the most magnificent buildings in Moscow and St. Petersburg to house missions and delegations. They frequently sent representatives to regions of strategic interest such as Siberia and the oil-rich Caspian regions and were eager to create a diplomatic network.
When the Bolshevik revolution turned Russia into a communist state, the international enthusiasm over Russia’s natural resources cooled. But Western European countries did not completely shun Russia. In order to be steadily provided with Russian natural gas at a low price, they built a pipeline connecting the country to Western Europe. Since the end of the Cold War, they have been competing to secure oil fields in the Caspian Sea and an oil supply from Siberia.
Western powers are waging the fiercest fight over natural resources in Siberia and Sakhalin, which are geographically and historically related to Korea. Major multinational oil giants have already pushed into the northeastern region, while Japan and China are trying to secure their share in Russia. The international competition has made Sakhalin one of the most sought-after destinations, while Siberia has become another battlefield in the diplomatic war.
The United States, Germany, Japan and China have already sent missions, and Mongolia, Poland and even North Korea have joined the trend. But Seoul had been blocked from entering the region because of the Cold War, and still does not have a plan to open a diplomatic legation there. Siberia and Sakhalin are familiar names to Koreans. The connection goes back centuries, and our ancestors founded Balhae in the region in ancient times. Countries with no historical or ethnic ties to the region are competing for a share of the pie. Hopefully, our foreign policy makers will make the natural decision to open a consulate there.
by Kim Seok-hwan
The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.