1st Korea-Russia forum in Pohang

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1st Korea-Russia forum in Pohang


President Moon Jae-in, center, poses for a photo with officials from South Korea and Russia at the first Korea-Russia Regional Cooperation Forum in Pohang, North Gyeongsang, on Thursday. [YONHAP]

South Korean President Moon Jae-in emphasized trilateral cooperation between Seoul, Pyongyang and Moscow Thursday while giving a speech at a forum in Pohang, North Gyeongsang, describing the southeastern port city as a potential trade and tourism hub once an “era of peace” begins on the Korean Peninsula.

The remark was made in a congratulatory speech he gave at the first Korea-Russia Regional Cooperation Forum, which kicked off in Pohang on Wednesday and runs through today. Moon and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed on June 22 during a bilateral summit in Moscow to boost regional cooperation between the two countries and hold a forum on the subject.

Speaking to a crowd that included Russia’s Minister for the Development of the Russian Far East Alexander Kozlov, Moon took every chance Thursday to highlight his New Northern Economic Policy, a key pillar of his Korean Peninsula peace vision after North Korea’s denuclearization. The policy hinges on maximizing South Korea’s economic potential by connecting the country’s transportation infrastructure with that of North Korea and Russia, eventually reaching as far as Europe to allow the free movement of people and freight.

The Moon administration wants to start that initiative by renovating North Korean roads and railways using South Korean government money and earmarked 350 billion won ($312.5 million) for next year, a chunk of the 1.97 trillion won that’s been set aside for cross-border projects.

“The Far East will be a key region connecting freight and energy [resources] between the Korean Peninsula and Eurasia,” Moon said in his congratulatory message. “When the era of peace opens on the Korean Peninsula,” he continued, “Pohang’s Yeongilman Port will link with North Korea’s Kosong Port and Rason Port and also Russia’s Vladivostok Port and Zarubino Port, becoming a hub for distribution and tourism.”

The Blue House chief continued that Pohang will be able to play a “key role” in northern trade when South Korean railways connect with those in North Korea to pass through Siberia, eventually reaching Europe.

In Thursday’s forum, 17 local governments in South Korea and nine local governments in Russia’s Far East agreed to boost cooperation in various fields including energy, advanced technology, tourism, medicine, arts and education, and establish a permanent office to organize the forum every year, with Russia and South Korea taking turns hosting the event.

Noting that this year’s forum was mainly participated by Russian government officials from the Far East, both countries agreed to encourage regional governments from other parts of Russia to take part in future forums.

The second Korea-Russia Regional Cooperation Forum will be held next year in Vladivostok, a Russian port city near the country’s border with China. Ulsan, on South Korea’s southeastern part near Busan, will host the third forum in 2020.

In a separate meeting with business leaders of North Gyeongsang Thursday, Moon said the government will support the southeast province by creating an “industrial ecosystem” there inspired by the fourth industrial revolution, in part by offering financial assistance while easing regulations on developing new materials and medicine.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]
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