Look Far EastPresident Park Geun-hye attends the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) in Vladivostok today. The meeting offers a good opportunity for Korea to achieve two goals. In economic terms, Korea can secure a foothold for its capital and technology to advance into the vast Eurasian continent through the Russian Far East in a campaign to open new markets.
The Russian Far East has a vast territory nearly 28 times the size of the Korean Peninsula, but has only 2 million people. Russia is paranoid about the likelihood that the area could get out of Russia’s control due to an influx of 110 million Chinese living in three eastern provinces bordering the Russian Far East.
Russia is betting on its New East Policy to transform Vladivostok into an economic capital by investing a whopping $337.4 billion by 2025. To achieve the goal, Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted the 2012 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in the city followed by the establishment of the Ministry for the Development of the Russian Far East, a federal executive body that coordinates the implementation of state-funded programs. Moscow last year established the EEF to develop Primorsky Kray, Russia’s farthest south-eastern region.
Russia regards Korea as the best partner in developing the Far East due to its territorial disputes with Japan over the Kuril Islands and deepening worries about the Chinese. A bipartite committee for economic, scientific and technological cooperation had a meeting last month to discuss concrete ways to achieve the goal. Russia asked for Korean investments in the construction of a 22.8 kilometer beltway around Primorsky Kray, development of a port in Jaruvino, and help in food, shipbuilding and medical sectors.
The other merit of the EEF is the strengthening of our diplomatic footing. Thanks to Russia, President Park has become the guest of honor among 35 heads of state at the meeting. North Korea gave up attending the conference and China sent a low-level cadre. Our exchanges with Russia under such circumstances will help reinforce our diplomatic leverage.
In addition to the need to convince Putin about the unavoidability of the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, President Park must look to the Russian Far East because our participation could lead to ending the North’s isolation. What is needed now is our government’s determination.
JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 2, Page 34