Yakutia: cooperation with South Korean pharma, biotech

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.

more Chinese tourists in Iceland

Almost 50% more Chinese tourists visited Iceland during the first eleven months of 2014 than during the same period the year before, says Xinhua. PM Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson tells the agency he’s happy about that and that his government seeks to increase cooperation between the two countries.

paging Mr Huang

Officials from the local governments behind GáF ehf., a company created to purchase some Icelandic land and lease it to Huang Nubo, would like to know if he’s still interested in it (RÚV). If he’s not, the indebted company doesn’t serve much of a purpose.

They might just go and ask him. I don’t know if he has talked about Iceland in the last few months, but in the past he has been quite outspoken on what he sees as a lack of professionalism and respect towards foreign investors from the Icelandic authorities, while always adding he wants to go on with the project as soon as he’s allowed to.

with Lama Drama just over, Huang Nubo buys 100 hectares in northern Norway

Chinese poet-tycoon Huang Nubo 黄怒波, besides being in talks to buy a large expanse of land in Svalbard (with “no other [potential] buyers in the picture”), has all but closed a deal to buy 100 hectares in Lyngen, Troms county, Norway, and set up a tourist resort, reports Tromsø paper Nordlys.

This is the closest so far Huang has come to realising his Nordic tourism plans. Despite a certain degree of controversy about larger implications of selling Arctic land to China, nothing in Norwegian law would seem to prevent the sale.

so yes, Huang Nubo does want to buy that chunk of Svalbard

Huang Nubo 黄怒波 tells NRK in Beijing that he’s the only potential buyer for Austre Adventfjord, a 200 km2 plot of land in Svalbard, which he estimates could set him off some $4m (i.e. less per hectare than what he was willing to offer for Grímsstaðir á Fjöllum in Iceland). He says he wants to set up a holiday resort there and to offer fishing excursions and cruise trips to nearby fjords, to cater mainly to Chinese tourists (like the ones who already go to Svalbard).

The current owners of the plot had said they wanted to mine for coal there, even if the land itself ends up being sold.

More on the Svalbard sale, with and a bit of background, in my two recent posts on the topic.

amid Lama Drama, Svalbard sale, Norway hears Huang Nubo say he plans to invest $110m (over ten years)

Chinese tourism and real estate tycoon Huang Nubo 黄怒波 tells AFP that he’s planning to invest $110m over five to ten years in Norway, and reiterates his interest in developing tourism in Northern Europe. Recently he has been interacting with officials from that region, and from Norway specifically.

It helps that the Norwegian gov’t isn’t receiving the Dalai Lama too officially: if they had, it would be harder for Huang to invest there as the Chinese government wouldn’t approve of it, he adds. Norway is going through a Lama Drama at the moment.

Despite rumours to the contrary, Huang hasn’t yet declared interest in buying the large plot of Svalbard land that has just been put up for sale. Huang doesn’t do coal mining, which is what the seller wants to do on the land regardless of who ends up owning it. That said, just next to Longyearbyen looks like not the worst place to build a tourist resort. Chinese tourists do go to Svalbard already. On the other hand, the level of drama that already surrounds the deal, before anyone had time to talk numbers, suggests a Chinese bid might create just the same brouhaha as Huang’s attempt to buy land in Iceland.

Huang Nubo: in talks with Norway, Denmark, Sweden

Chinese poet-tycoon Huang Nubo 黄怒波, recently spotted in France, tells China National Radio that Zhongkun 中坤 Group, the real-estate and tourism conglomerate he leads, has an “ever more distinct” strategy to enter Northern European tourism market. “Now we’re not only talking with Iceland,” he added: in “the last couple of days” the ambassadors of Norway, Sweden and Denmark have all arranged meetings with him.

Pakistani delegation meets Huang Nubo’s Zhongkun

A delegation of Pakistani tour operators took time off a cultural event in Kashgar, Xinjiang, to meet with Zhongkun Group officials and be shown the Kashgar Zhongkun Square (喀什噶尔中坤广场) project, or a scale model of it. The Square, a 9 ha business and resort park with a prominent tower in the middle, will add to the various developments the Group has or plans in Xinjiang, which include scenic parks, historical sites, hotels and a golf course.

Promoting cross-border tourism between the two countries was one of the purposes of the Pakistani visit to Kashgar, a hundred miles from Pakistan and linked to it by the Karakoram Highway. These contacts are particularly relevant to Gilgit-Baltistan, the Pakistani-controlled, self-governing territory that borders Xinjiang and where tourism is a main source of income. Indeed one attendee (to the Kashgar event, and in particular to the meeting at Zhongkun Group) was Naiknam Karim, a trade association official and head of a company with key operations in Gilgit-Baltistan.

Gilgit-Baltistan is of strategic importance to China and the target of a good deal of Chinese investment, in particular in transportation infrastructure. Days after the Kashgar event, a Chinese delegation was set to visit Gilgit-Baltistan to discuss investment prospects, led by Yuan Jianmin (袁建民), the top man at a Xinjiang subsidiary of state-owned logistics giant Sinotrans and seemingly an old name in Pakistan-Xinjiang trade (and other) relations. Cross-border road links and tourism were on the agenda.

It’s not immediately clear if Zhongkun and their Pakistani guests talked about any future plans for the Group to invest in resorts across the border. Years ago, Huang Nubo, the Group’s chairman, had shown an interest into extending their Xinjiang operations into neighboring countries, but gave up after becoming embroiled in Kyrgyz politics. Mr Huang’s better-known venture overseas wasn’t much more successful: he’s been trying since 2011 to purchase some $260/ha land in Grímsstaðir á Fjöllum, northern Iceland, unleashing a political drama that must have broken a few controversy-per-dollar-per-hectare records. I narrated that saga back in March, and intend to post more on it as it continues to develop.

According to an account of the meeting on Zhongkun’s website, one of the visitors was Pakistan’s minister of tourism, which is quite remarkable because that office was abolished by a constitutional amendment in 2011.