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South Korea making bold moves in Arctic resource race

Alaska Dispatch
Norwegian Polar Institute/W.K. Dallmann illustration

As the arctic warms, competition for northern resources has pushed likely players into action-- Russia, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Greenland, Canada and the US are all exploring options in northern development and resource extraction. But the arctic is also attracting a fair share of unlikely enthusiasts; China, India and now South Korea are all jockeying for a piece of the bounty.

According to World Politics Review, South Korea's arctic policy push is gaining momentum. WPR reports that the country's President Lee Myung-bak, recently completed his first Arctic tour, visiting Russia, Greenland and Norway on diplomatic and commerce-related business.

In early Sept., Lee and Greenland's Prime Minister Kuupik Kleist announced their intent for the two nations to begin cooperative efforts on green development projects. The pair also signed memoranda outlining shared shipping lanes, mineral and resource exploration and geological surveys in the north.

Following his visit with Kleist, Lee made a stopover in Norway, where he participated in "a high-level (roundtable) meeting," according to WPR. Lee, who has already agreed to work closely on climate change and green growth in the region, told the room:

It takes about 30 days to go from South Korea to Europe by ship, but if Arctic routes are created, I think travel time will be halved. If that happens, economic exchanges between Europe and Asia will become very brisk. In particular, if Norway cooperates with us, Asian routes will be established, which will be very good for its future.

While in Norway, Lee and Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg signed memoranda of understanding to the mutual benefit of their countries, one memo regarding environmentally conscious shipbuilding and another concerning actual shipping in the Far North.

After his visit, Lee was promised by leaders in Oslo that Norway would back South Korea in its pursuit to become a permanent observer on the Arctic Council, a position the country has eagerly sought after.

South Korea has shown dedication to its Arctic resource drive and is keen to secure access to potential fossil fuels in the region, as well as create opportunities for itself in the shipping infrastructure sectors, specifically in green development.

To read more visit WPR here.