Officials from the Far Eastern Russian region of Yakutia (the Sakha Republic) were in Gangwon province in South Korea last month to discuss potential cooperation. The visit included meetings with local pharmaceutical companies, some of which seem to have an interest in Yakutian products such as (deer?) antlers and should refer to the Siberian musk deer (사향노루) or a similar animal (Sputnik 콜리아, ЯСИЯ). Among the Korean companies the visitors interacted with: Hamsoa Pharm (함소아제약), Regeron, Bifido.
Another topic of the talks was tourism. The Yakutians would like to attract South Korean visitors and there are plans to start offering charter flights between Chuncheon and Yakutsk.
Remarkably enough, an important component of tourist flow in the opposite direction, from Russia to Korea, is medical tourism. Around the time of the Russian visit to Gangwon, representatives from Heundae Paik Hospital (해운대백병원) in Kimhae and from a Korean medical tour operator were visiting Yakutia. No less than 13% of patients at that particular hospital come from Russia. Such a figure is of course not that common in the industry, but South Korea is an important medical tourism destination, most famously for plastic surgery. Most customers come from China, but the former Soviet Union also provides an interesting market, and sheer geography would suggest Korea might be attractive to patients in the Russian Far East, closer to South Korea than to their own country’s major population centres.
I’ve written recently about Yakutian efforts to attract investment from East Asia. The region, just like others in the Russian Far East, badly needs foreign investment that is unlikely to come from the West in the current geopolitical climate.
South Korean authorities are just as eager to increase cooperation with Russia in everything Arctic. For a recent sample of this: the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries (해양수산부) Arctic action plan for this year, presented not two weeks ago, highlights cooperation with Russia, including Korean investment in developing and modernising ports in Russia’s Far East.