Korea and Russia start yearly strategic dialogue

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Korea and Russia start yearly strategic dialogue

While last week’s G-20 Summit in Seoul put Korea on the world’s stage, the Korea-Russia Dialogue (KRD) - held a day prior to the G-20 - was also meaningful for the two countries to take their bilateral ties to a new level after 20 years of diplomatic relations.

The KRD, which began last week, featured 300 scholars and representatives from both countries and wrapped up its inaugural two-day gathering at Lotte Hotel, central Seoul, on Wednesday.

The dialogue is intended to allow the two countries to meet on a regular basis to strengthen the bilateral partnership between the two countries.

Modeled after the Petersburg Dialogue between Russia and Germany, the KRD will be held alternately in Korea and Russia every year. The next meeting is expected to be held in St. Petersburg in the second half of 2011.

The participants, 100 from Korea and 200 from Russia, discussed how to bring deeper cooperation between Korea and Russia in such fields as education and science, politics and international relations, and media and society. Culture, the arts and economy and trade were also discussed. Cooperation between young leaders from the two countries was another talking point.

President Lee Myung-bak and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev talked at the closing ceremony of the event.

“Trade volume between Russia and Korea still lags behind the trade volumes of Korea and China, or the U.S. or Japan,” said Medvedev in a speech during the ceremony. “The bilateral relationship needs to be further developed from today forward.”

Lee, who proposed creating such a forum in 2008, hoped to see more exchange between the people of the two countries for better mutual understanding of culture and life.

“If Russia’s world-class science technologies are combined with Korea’s mercantile technologies, it will bring a substantial outcome,” Lee said.

According to Korea University, the organizers on the Korean side, this was the first time Korea launched an annual forum with any specific country aimed at improving cooperation in such a variety of areas. Korea and Russia lifted their bilateral relations to a strategic cooperative partnership at a September 2008 summit.

For Russia, it is the second such bilateral grouping after its program with Germany. The Petersburg Dialogue, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, is believed to have given new impetus to the Russia-Germany relationship.

For instance, a visa waiver program between the two countries is being discussed actively after it was proposed at the Petersburg Dialogue, according to St. Petersburg State University, the Russian organizer.

“I think the dialogue has built momentum for the cooperation between Russia and Germany,” said Konstantin Khudoley, vice president of St. Petersburg State University.

Khudoley, who led the Russian representatives, said the Korea-Russia Dialogue and the Petersburg Dialogue are the two only bilateral consultation forums receiving support from the Russian government.

“The participation of President Medvedev in the forum shows how significantly Russia views this forum,” said the professor.

The organizers said discussions at the forum will be submitted in the form of a report to both governments, with a chance that they get reflected in future government policies.

By Moon Gwang-lip [joe@joongang.co.kr]
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