S. Korea seeks to play greater role in the Arctic

SEOUL, July 25 (Yonhap) -- South Korea on Thursday unveiled a set of measures to strengthen its presence in the Arctic that include boosting its research activities in the region, as well as the possible construction of its second icebreaker.

Under the plans, the country will first seek to boost and strengthen its cooperation with other countries, the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries said.

"Unlike in the Antarctic region, the exclusive rights of neighboring countries are generally acknowledged in the Arctic, and therefore cooperation with the countries located along the coast of the Arctic region is more important than anything else," Yoon Jin-sook, the minister of oceans and fisheries, was quoted as saying.

Already 82 percent of areas and waters in the Arctic is claimed by the surrounding countries, including Russia and the United States, with the remaining 18 percent recognized as international waters, the ministry said in a press release.

The Arctic is believed to hold up to 30 percent of the world's unidentified deposits of natural gas and about 13 percent of oil.

South Korea joined the Arctic Council as an observer in May. The council currently consists of only eight member states with territories in the Arctic and 32 observers, including nine governmental and 11 non-governmental organizations.

The country will also intensify its research efforts in the Arctic to monitor climate change and its impact on the world and the Korean Peninsula, according to the ministry.

To this end, the country will expand the size and activities of its Arctic research facility, Dasan Station, located in Ny-Alesund of Norway's Svalbard Islands.

It will also consider building its second icebreaker, the ministry said. The country's first-ever icebreaker, the Araon, was launched in 2010.

In addition to its research and development efforts, the government will step up efforts to explore and expand the country's commercial gains in the Arctic.

A South Korean shipping company is already set to launch a pilot service next month, using a North Pole shipping route to Europe.

The government is seeking to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Russia for cooperation on the joint development of a port in the Arctic Ocean, it said.

South Korea has already signed an MOU for cooperation in joint exploration of natural resources with Greenland.

"It will seek to sign MOUs on the joint development of natural resources with other surrounding countries," the ministry said.

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