Revitalize Russia tiesTwenty years have passed since Korea established diplomatic ties with Russia.
During this relatively short period of time, both countries have achieved remarkable progress in many areas.
Since 1990, a total of 20 summits have been held, and leaders from Russia and Korea have made visits to see their counterparts nearly a dozen times.
Trade volume, which stood at just $190 million in 1992, grew to almost $10 billion last year, an impressive 52-fold increase. Both tourism and travel have also increased sharply between the countries.
Moreover, the relationship has been strengthened to become a “strategic cooperative partnership.”
But despite these accomplishments the relationship still falls way short of our expectations. Some pundits even say the friendship is stagnating and that passion is dying down.
But we must not ignore this issue as the nation focuses on more pressing national interests. We should mend the current stalemate by getting rid of any impediments to strengthening the relationship.
Both sides first need to change their perceptions of each other. Although Russia’s power in the international arena has weakened noticeably since the glory days of the Soviet Union, it is still one of the four big powers surrounding the Korean Peninsula. It is also a rapidly growing economic power with abundant energy and other natural resources.
If we are concerned about the growing power of China in the region, we should realize the strategic value of Russia because it can counterbalance China.
We should therefore reinforce our strategic partnership with Russia by keeping in mind its strategic significance until - and if - the divided Korean Peninsula unifies. From the perspective of Russia, Korea carries great strategic importance as a foothold to further advance into the Pacific arena. A complementary economic partnership between the two countries can help Russia’s development plan in eastern Siberia, too.
But as long as North Korea remains an “off-limits zone” - effectively blocking the free flow of workers and materials between Russia and South Korea - it will be difficult for the partnership between Moscow and Seoul to truly flourish.
We should also cooperate with Russia, and they with us, on issues such as North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and reform. These moves would represent significant steps toward developing a bond between Russia and South Korea that will last far into the future.