9 bridges leading to Russia’s Far EastLast month, the world’s first ice-breaking LNG carrier successfully completed a 19-day voyage through the polar region. The ship broke through ice and transported LNG without help from another icebreaker. This ship costs 360 billion won ($319 million), constructed by a Korean company and delivered to Russia in March. Russian President Vladimir Putin attended the naming ceremony of the ship.
Korean companies are thriving in shipbuilding industry in Russia. Since 2014, Korean companies got orders for 27 ships, including gas tankers for the polar region. Lately, cooperation is expanding from shipbuilding orders to modernization of outdated shipbuilding docks and technology assistance for building ships in Russia.
On Sept. 6 and 7, President Moon Jae-in attended the third Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok. President Moon and President Putin agreed to link Korea’s “New Northern Policy” and Russia’s “New Eastern Policy” closely. The Russian Far East is the intersection of the two policies, a vast territory with rich repository of clean energy such as natural gas, water power and wind power. Also, it is the gateway to the Eurasian market of 180 million people. Major markets in Asia, Europe and North America are already saturated, but the Russian Far East is the blue ocean with high growth potential.
At the forum, President Moon garnered great support from attendees with a proposal to build nine bridges of cooperation, not only shipbuilding and the Northern Sea Route but also energy, gas, railway, ports, agriculture, fisheries and jobs.
Korea and Russia will conduct joint studies so that electricity, gas and railways can be immediately connected once peace in the Korean Peninsula is established.
The props supporting the nine bridges would be a Korea-Eurasian Economic Union free trade agreement. Through the summit meeting, two countries has taken a step forward to build comprehensive economic cooperation partnership by agreeing to form a working group to discuss the FTA. If an FTA is signed, trade and investments between Korea and Russia would expand, and both countries would enjoy industrial growth.
*Minister of Trade, Industry and Energy