Russia's Foreign Minister visits South Korea, will meet presidential hopefuls, attend embassy gala

Igor Ivanov, Russia's Minister of Foreign Affairs, is paying an official visit to South Korea. Today, he will take part in a gala opening new Russian ambassadorial premises.

That is a symbolical event as an upgraded embassy will provide far better opportunities for diplomatic and commercial contacts, considering firm Russian desire for unbroken long-term presence in the host country and the entire Korean peninsula.

Russia has had no permanent ambassadorial premises since it established diplomatic relations with South Korea in 1990, making do with a rented house. An agreement of 1997 settled disputes round former Russian property in Seoul, and Russia received a hectare plot in the city centre plus financial compensation, on which the new premises were built. Our informant does not think another embassy has any better in Seoul.

The Foreign Minister has a pressed schedule for today, what with the ambassadorial celebrations and meetings with foremost presidential hopefuls--Lee Hwe Chang of the Great Power Party, Noh Moo Hen of the New Millennium Democratic Party, and Paek Kyung Hae of the Coalition for Future.

South Korea is going to the presidential polls, December.