[VIEWPOINT]Roh engages with Eurasia

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[VIEWPOINT]Roh engages with Eurasia

Beginning Sunday, President Roh Moo-hyun will visit Kazakstan and Russia. This tour is significant in that Korea will resume summit diplomacy for the first time since the president’s impeachment. It is even more significant in that the first step aims to strengthen relations with leading Eurasian countries, which seem to have been put on the back burner.
About 100,000 ethnic Koreans live in Kazakstan, which Mr. Roh will be the first South Korean president to visit. Also, Kazakstan has made rapid progress in becoming a core country of Eurasia by developing resources in the Caspian Sea. When the Trans-Siberian Railway and Trans-Korean Railway are connected in the future, they must pass Kazakstan to pass through China and thus link the Korean Peninsula with Europe.
For this reason, heads of multinational businesses as well as leaders from various countries, including the United States, China and Germany, visit this country. Therefore, President Roh’s visit to Kazakstan and his subsequent visit to Russia are a suitable route and timely move that take into account aspects of both politics and economics.
The world is now fiercely competing among Europe, Asia and the Americas, three major economic axes, to make progress. Particularly, Eurasia, including Northeast Asia, faces more rapid changes and development than ever.
One of the core countries in Eurasia that achieved such development is Russia. Since President Vladimir Putin took office, Russia has made great strides under a stable political structure. The country has also recently made efforts to carry out a few megaprojects with regard to developing eastern Siberia and the Russian Far East region located close to the Korean Peninsula.
A notable project is the connection of the Trans-Siberian Railway and Trans-Korean Railway. Through this project, Russia plans to transport to Europe containers that are concentrated in our ports, Gwangyang and Busan. Russia is also attempting to develop its railroad transport infrastructure through the project.
Also, rediscovering the role of the Trans-Siberian Railway in building a transportation network, an essential factor of energy development in eastern Siberia and the Far East, Russia is drawing up a plan to include transportation and energy development. It is also pursuing a plan to build pipelines to transport energy resources developed in these regions.
The plan aims to build two main energy pipelines: One is an oil and gas pipeline network from Taishet in eastern Siberia to Nakhodka in the Russian Far East and the other is a gas pipeline network that connects Sakhalin and Khabarovsk, 215 kilometers of which is already in progress. Russia plans to expand branch lines according to its future negotiations with Northeast Asian countries.
In addition, based on its experience of transmitting electricity to Finland and China, Russia has a plan to export electric power to South Korea through North Korea, which has been pursued for 12 years. It is also materializing a plan to construct a power plant in Sakhalin and connect it to Japan’s electric power system.
The influence of these discussions is not limited to Russia alone. In particular, the concept of a “single integrated Northeast Asian energy market” will usher in opportunities for Korea, China and Japan in Northeast Asia, which have imported major energy resources from outside the region. For this reason, Chinese Prime Minister Hu Jintao and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi held summit talks with Russian President Putin and have competed to obtain cooperation from Russia in the direction of contributing to the future development of their own countries.
In this situation, President Roh will make a visit to Eurasia. Political strife at home could be important, but movement abroad can determine our fate and the future success or failure of our economy. In this respect, President Roh should by all means lay the framework for reciprocal and equal cooperation between Korea and the countries in this region.
But overly preoccupied with Korea-Russia relations, he should not deal with the flow of the megaprojects, including energy, in the dimension of bilateral economic cooperation alone. Korea should take the lead in seeking bilateral cooperation in future discussions on a common energy cooperative body and the single integrated energy market in Northeast Asia. We expect that Mr. Roh will build a large framework for regional cooperation in Northeast Asia through the bilateral summit talks.

* The writer is a professor of economics at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.


by Kwon Won-soon
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