Russian envoy voices hope for better relations with South Korea despite soured ties

by IANS |

Seoul, July 8 (IANS) Russia hopes to maintain "safe lines" in its bilateral relations with South Korea and work to improve ties despite the current chill, its top envoy to Seoul said on Monday.

Russian Ambassador Georgy Zinoviev made the remarks at a Seoul event marking the shared history of the two countries, throughout which he noted Russia has been a neighbour that has worked to act in consideration of South Korea's interests, reports Yonhap news agency.

"Our country was a constructive force genuinely interested in Korea's autonomy and independence. Russia continuously pursued this line after establishing de facto diplomatic relations," Zinoviev said at the opening ceremony of an exhibition marking the 140th anniversary of the signing of the first bilateral treaty.

"Russia did not act against Korea's interests, instead it tried to defend them in every possible way," he said.

Zinoviev's remarks came at a time when Seoul-Moscow relations remain frayed over Moscow's tightening relationship with North Korea, with a focus on military cooperation.

The bilateral ties further chilled after Russian President Vladimir Putin's recent visit to Pyongyang last month for talks with the North's leader Kim Jong-un, during which they signed a treaty pledging mutual military assistance in case of an armed attack on either of them.

"We hope that our relations will maintain the safe lines and develop in a better direction," he said, adding that he is making every effort to create positive momentum.

Zinoviev accused the West of "discrediting" his country in the wrong way, as they have been so in history, calling for an "objective" view of the present for the future of the bilateral ties.

"We witness attempts to discredit Russia, present its actions in a false light," he said, confirming afterwards that he meant the Western media and politicians.

"Sometime in the future, we could see more of an objective view on Russia's actions, both in the past and in the present," Zinoviev said.

The exhibition, co-hosted by the Russian Embassy in Seoul, features historical materials and archives related to Korea-Russia relations between the late 19th and early 20th century, including reproduced paintings by Jang Seung-eop, a renowned Korean painter from the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910).

The two paintings, unveiled to the public for the first time, are part of his artwork that Joseon's King Gojong presented to then-Russian Emperor Nicholas II for his coronation in 1896.

The exhibition will run from July 8 to August 31 at the Appenzeller Noble Memorial Museum in central Seoul.

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