South Korea Contemplates Investment in Russian Far East Port

The port of Slavyanka, Russia (file image)

By The Maritime Executive 10-18-2018 06:17:00

The South Korean government is underwriting a feasibility study for a port expansion project at Slavyanka, a tiny Russian port 25 miles southwest of Vladivostok. Slavyanka is located adjacent to China's landlocked Jilin Province, and Russian development agencies have promoted its potential as a hub for cargoes departing northeastern China. It is also near to Russia's border with North Korea. 

The proposal is not new: in 2006, Russia, China, South Korea and Japan contemplated a joint shipping route that would connect Jilin Province to the Sea of Japan via the port of Zarubino, another small Russian seaside town located 20 miles southwest of Slavyanka. The plan aimed to cut one week off the transit time for cargoes from Jilin to Japan by eliminating a 620-mile rail trip to Dalian, the current port of departure for Jilin's products.

That plan did not ultimately materialize, but last year, Hyundai Engineering & Construction Co. signed an MOU with Russian firm Berkut for development of a similar project at Slavyanka, according to Yonhap. This week, South Korea's ministry of oceans and fisheries announced that it would carry out a year-long feasibility study into the development of Slavyanka's seaport in order to provide more information to South Korean companies. The ministry said that it was responding to private firms' expressions of interest in investing in the region. 

The project aligns with South Korean President Moon Jae-in's "New Northern Policy," which seeks joint infrastructure projects with Russia and North Korea. The most ambitious elements of this policy include a renewed push for the long-discussed railroad line from the South across North Korea, which would link up with the Trans-Siberian Railway's Baikal-Amur Mainline.

"If the South-North Korea summit and the North Korea-U.S. summit are held successfully, the [New Northern Policy] will become a realistic goal, not a dream," said Song Young-gil, the chairman of the new Presidential Committee on Northern Economic Cooperation, earlier this year.