South Korea and Russia decided to make an agreement on mutual visa-free travel for 60 days starting in January 2014. Both sides also made a decision to conduct a preliminary feasibility study for a Russia-Korea gas pipeline project passing through North Korea. In addition, the two countries agreed to discuss ways to help large Korean companies be involved in Russia’s shipbuilding business.
According to officials at Chong Wa Dae (the Presidential Office) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on November 11, President Park Geun-hye will announce measures to strengthen bilateral economic cooperation at a summit meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Putin is scheduled to visit Korea from November 12-13.
A senior government official said, “In the summit, a visa-free travel agreement for the general public will be signed, which will be included in a joint statement,” adding, “The agreement is expected to greatly contribute to revitalizing bilateral economic cooperation in tourism, medical services, and trades.”
The invigoration of medical tourism in Korea is expected, since people living in Siberia and the Far East that lack medical infrastructure prefer Korea to Moscow, because of better and cheaper medical services. In fact, the number of Russian tourists heading to Korea is annually increasing by 5-7%. In 2012, a total of 150,000 Russians visited South Korea.
On top of that, both countries are going to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for a project to modernize the 54-kilometer-long Najin-Khasan railway and another project to connect the Trans-Siberian Railway (TSR) with the Trans-Korean Railway (TKR). Hence, the agreement on mutual visa-free travel is likely to facilitate investment and exchange between the two countries, including those projects.
The government official commented, “An MOU signing for the gas pipeline project is unlikely, but both sides agreed to conduct a preliminary feasibility study. Apparently, the two leaders will announce their plan for the project at the summit.”
It is reported that Russia is going to make a request that large Korean companies such as Samsung Heavy Industries and Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering participate or invest in Russia’s shipbuilding business.