Good Korea move: Medvedev invites Seoul into modernization plan

South Korea's President Lee Myung-bak (L) and Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev attend a press conference at the presidential Blue House in Seoul on November 10, 2010 (AFP Photo / Pool / Ahn Young-joon)
The Russian and South Korean presidents have vowed to further develop the partnership between their countries. Dmitry Medvedev has also invited businesses in the republic to help modernize Russia’s economy.

­President Medvedev met South Korean leader Lee Myung-Bak in Soeul on the eve of the G20 summit. Medvedev noted that Korean companies have “a lot of experience in applied technology and in its commercialization”. 

Russia, for its part, can offer South Korean partners scientific and fundamental research and development. 

Areas of cooperation, Medvedev said, could include medicine, energy efficiency, space and nuclear technology, as well as computer science.

Foreign companies often complain that Russian bureaucracy and complicated migration rules are a major barrier for foreign companies. However, Russian authorities have promised it will be different in the case of Skolkovo – an innovation center being built near Moscow. To push this ambitious project forward and make the Russian version of Silicon Valley attractive to foreign investors and scientists, a more simple customs and migration regime is planned and there will be tax benefits for involvement in the Skolkovo project as well.

President Medvedev expressed hope that Korean hi-tech companies will enjoy the benefits that the Skolkovo center offers.

Following their meeting, Medvedev and Myung-Bak issued a joint statement pledging to strengthen ties between Moscow and Seoul."We are strategic partners,” the Korean president said, as cited by Interfax.

Echoing his Russian counterpart, he assured that the republic is willing “to develop cooperation not just in the economy, but also in security and other areas”.  He specifically underlined that there are no conflicting interests in relations between Moscow and Seoul.

“I am certain that the visit will become a symbol of the development of our bilateral relations," Myung-Bak added.

It was then a move from words to deeds, with South Korea and Russia signing a number of agreements in various fields. Quite traditionally, Russian gas supplies are among the deals. Gazprom and Kogas of South Korea agreed on annual supplies of 10 billion cubic meters of Russian natural gas to the republic starting from 2017, reported Itar-Tass.

According to Gazprom CEO Aleksey Miller, the Russian energy giant is also considering building a gas pipeline to South Korea. And that was one of the matters discussed during the Russian delegation’s visit to the republic.

The year 2010 marks the 20th anniversary of formal diplomatic ties between Russia and South Korea.

On Thursday, the G20 summit opens in Seoul, with Medvedev and Myung-Bak taking part.  The Korean president stressed that despite being the gathering of the Group of 20, the large-scale meeting in fact represents the interests of more than 170 countries. And the main task of the participants is to make sure those interests are taken into consideration.

Pavel Leshakov, director of the International Center for Korean Studies at Moscow State University, thinks that now is exactly the right time to boost mutual economic relations between the two countries.

“The summit could be a good chance to stimulate mutual trade as well as mutual investment,” Leshakov told RT. “And one of the problems is that even those investments which are made now by South Korea are concentrated in the European part, near Moscow. I think the right direction would be the Russian Far East, especially on the eve of the Asia Pacific Economic Community meeting which will be held in Vladivostok next year.”

Leshakov believes it is crucial for Russia and Korea to get to know each other better, as “up until now Korean investments in Russia are not supported by much information.” The analyst added, “The most important thing now is to have much more information about business opportunities in both countries and I think that this summit will be a good chance to exchange information.”