Russia-ROK gas deal on hold

Last year we reported on an effort to bring Russian natural gas to South Korea via a pipeline that could either go through North Korea or across the East Sea (aka Sea of Japan).  If the pipeline was to cross the DPRK, they stood to gain by leasing the land for the pipeline.

According to news this week, the plan has been indefinitely shelved.   According to the story:

Plans to import Russian natural gas through a North Korean pipeline have been shelved due to strained inter-Korean relations, the head of South Korea’s state-run energy company said Tuesday.

Korea Gas Corp (KOGAS) (KSE:36460) president Choo Kang-soo said unless North Korea specifically asks for the pipeline to be built on its soil, Seoul will not pursue the piped natural gas (PNG) project but opt to import liquefied natural gas (LNG) directly from Russia by ship.

“An understanding has recently been reached with Russian partners on this issue,” the chief executive said, adding that recent developments like the nuclear standoff raised the importance of creating a “controllable schedule” for getting the gas on time.

He pointed out that the inability to control cross-border issues has made the PNG plan less viable.

Under a blueprint announced in 2008, Seoul said it wanted to import 7.5 million tons of Russian gas starting in 2015 to ensure a steady supply of fuel. Seoul had previously relied heavily on imports from Southeast Asian countries, which have since hiked up prices.

The deal, valued at more than US$100 million, called for a pipeline running from Russia’s far east to South Korea through North Korea.

Choo hinted that because Russia is eying both the Japanese and Chinese markets, it also prefers to transform its natural gas into LNG for overseas sales.

KOGAS, meanwhile, said that the total amount of fuel that will be imported from Russia will equal 20 per cent of South Korea’s projected natural gas needs in 2015. In 2007, the country bought 7.8 million tons of gas for home use alone, with more being spent on power generation and various fuel needs.

Russia has an estimated 38 billion tons of natural gas and announced plans to spend US$28 billion to link the Krasnoyarsk, Irkutsk, Yakutsk and Sakhalin gas fields into a unified gas supply system that can facilitate exports.

Statistically speaking, natural resource exports are bad news for good governance and economic development.  This is because resource-dependent governments never need to develop the policies and institutions necessary to promote sustained entrepreneurship in the private economy from which they can extract tax revenue. Since non-democratic countries are supposed to love natural resource exports because they essentially translate into free hard currency, I am surprised the DPRK could not set politics aside and cash in on this deal.

Also, what does this say about Russia’s relationship with the DPRK?

Read the full story here:
S Korean plan to import Russian natural gas via N Korea on hold


2 Responses to “Russia-ROK gas deal on hold”

  1. kundedata says:

    It very nice blog.