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South Korea ties up with Norway on Arctic shipping

President Lee Myung-bak meets with Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg Wednesday morning to discuss how the two countries can take advantage of the new shipping routes opening between Europa and Asia as the Arctic sea ice melts.

Both Norway and South Korea are major global players in shipping. Norway is home to many of the world’s largest shipping companies, while South Korea is home to some of the largest ship-building yards in the world.

Establishing new shipping routes over the Arctic is a key agenda item for President Lee Myung-bak’s visit to Norway. Yesterday he had lunch at the Royal Castle in Oslo, while today starts with political discussions with Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, according to the portal of the Norwegian Government.

“New shipping lanes will significantly boost economic exchange between Asia and Europe,” President Lee said to the new-agency Yonhap on his first day in Norway.

“It takes about 30 days to go from South Korea to Europe by ship, but if Arctic routes are created, I think travel time will be halved. If that happens, economic exchanges between Europe and Asia will become very brisk. In particular, if Norway cooperates with us, Asian routes will be established, which will be very good for its future.”

The meeting between the two state leaders comes the same week as international ice- and climate scientists can report an all-time low for the Arctic sea-ice cap. Last week, the sea-ice cap dropped below 4 million square kilometers according to a report from the National Snow & Ice Data Centre. The will likely continue to melt even more to the end of this week before the freezing season starts again for the winter.

Earlier this week, BarentsObserver reported that the number of vessels and amount of cargo shipped along the Northern Sea Route have gained speed for the season. So far 22 vessels have sailed – 13 from the European part to Asia and nine from the east to the west. The season for shipping along the Northern Sea Route will likely last for another two months.

Another item on the South Korean’s President visiting Norway is cooperation on science and environment technology. On Tuesday, Lee Myung-bak Lee held video conference calls with South Korean scientists at the country's research bases in Antarctica, the Arctic and aboard an icebreaker conducting research in polar areas, commending their hard work in extreme conditions, according to Yonhap.

The South Korea’n leader arrived to Norway directly from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Vladivostok. Russia and Norway are the two leading Arctic countries discussing how to deal with increased shipping in the Arctic as the global warming melts the ice.

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