RUSSIA and the FAR EAST: Russian-Korean Relations

MANY IN SEOUL AGREE THAT THE NORmalization of Russian-South Korean relations was the major triumph of South Korea’s “northern diplomacy,” which aimed to improve relations with the Soviet Union, China, and Eastern European countries in the late 1980s. The Russian-South Korean rapprochement not only restored diplomatic relations after 85 years, but it also ended a 45-year-old belligerency sparked by Soviet patronage of the communist regime in North Korea after World War n. At the same time, it undermined the Cold War in northeast Asia, which had been characterized by the confrontation between two tripartite alliances – the United States and Japan behind South Korea (the capitalist camp), and the Soviet Union and China behind North Korea (the communist camp). South Korea’s Roh Tae Woo administration saw the Moscow-Seoul rapprochement as a way out of the region’s security stalemate, and Roh’s government continued the northern-diplomacy policy after the 24th Olympic Games in Seoul in September 1988. South Korea not only took the occasion to impress international audiences with its economic achievements but also used the Olympics to break through long-stalled negotiations with communist regimes.