Russia Eyes Kaesong Industrial Complex

North Korea and Russia will discuss the possibility of Russian companies opening factories in the joint-Korean Kaesong Industrial Complex, Radio Free Asia reported Friday.

Russia's Far East Development Minister Alexander Galushka visited the North for five days last week to explore ways of boosting business cooperation, according to the radio station. Galushka apparently discussed improving business conditions for Russian companies in North Korea, measures to protect Russian investments, and multiple-entry visas.

Other points on the agenda were development of North Korea's Rajin-Sonbong economic zones, steps to modernize the North's mines, power plant projects, rail lines connecting Russia and Korean Peninsula and a gas pipeline from Russia to South Korea via the North.

The two countries hope to boost bilateral trade to US$1 billion by 2020. According to the South's Korea Trade Investment Promotion Agency, North Korea recently imported Russian-made heavy equipment for unloading cargo at dockyards.

North Korea and Russia are also bolstering political ties. Workers Party secretary Kim Yong-il greeted a Russian Communist Party entourage in Pyongyang on March 24 and said bilateral cooperation was "entering a high level."

North Korean state TV has been airing a lot of Russian music as well. Recently, a subcommittee in Russia's Duma passed a resolution seeking to write off 90 percent of North Korea's debt to Moscow.

Park Hyung-joong at the Korea Institute for National Unification said, "Improvements in North Korea-Russia relations are the result of coinciding political and economic interests, so economic cooperation will expand."

Russia is hoping for North Korea's diplomatic support in its annexation of Crimea, while Pyongyang is seeking Moscow's help in overcoming its diplomatic isolation, experts said.

englishnews@chosun.com / Mar. 31, 2014 12:24 KST

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