The awards ceremony of the Research Papers Competition dedicated to the first envoy of Korea to Imperial Russia Lee Beom-jin has been held at the Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in St Petersburg.

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The competition has become one of the events dedicated to the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Russia and South Korea. The winners have been selected from four categories. The St Petersburg University students and academics who took top prizes in three categories are: Professor Sergei Belozerov and Associate Professor Elena Sokolovskaia (Department of Risk Management and Insurance); master’s student Elizaveta Vainberg (‘Pacific Studies’ programme) and postgraduate student Polina Zainullina (‘Advertising and Public Relations’ programme).

Lee Beom-jin (1852–1911) was a distinguished Korean diplomat and head of the Korean diplomatic mission in St Petersburg from 1900 to 1911. He advocated for the restoration of Korea’s political sovereignty after the establishment of Japanese patronage over Korea in 1905 followed by Japan’s annexation of Korea in 1910. On 26 January 1911, he committed suicide, leaving a note that read: ‘There is no reason to keep one’s life when one’s homeland has been deprived of its sovereignty.’ He was buried in St Petersburg’s Northern Cemetery, where a monument to him was erected in 2002.

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Lee Beom-jin’s son Lee Wi-jong (1887–1930s), a diplomat and military officer, also played an important role in the Korean independence movement against imperial Japan. With the outbreak of World War One, he joined the army and led the guerrilla campaign in the Far East. Lee Wi-jong converted to Orthodoxy and took a Russian name – Vladimir Sergeyevich Li.

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Opening the awards ceremony, the Consul General of the Republic of Korea in St Petersburg, Mr Kwon Dong-seok, noted that more than 40 applications had been submitted for the competition. ‘I hope that all the participants in the competition will continue to take a keen interest in the relations between our countries and realise their ambitions and potential in various fields. We look forward to hearing about their achievements,’ he said.

The jury panel was composed of: Yulia Piskulova, the great-great-granddaughter of Lee Beom-jin and the President of Descendants of Independence Fighters (the regional public organisation of descendants of the activists of the Korean independence movement 1910 to 1945); Vyacheslav Kalganov, the Deputy Chairman of the Committee for External Relations of St Petersburg; Nina Shevchuk, Associate Professor of the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA); and Kim Seok-hwan, the President of Korea Institute of Eurasian Studies and Professor of Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, who had initiated the competition.

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In her address, Yulia Piskulova noted that St Petersburg has been a historically important city to Russian-Korean diplomacy. ‘The fact that the competition dedicated to the first and plenipotentiary ambassador of Korea to Russia has been held in St Petersburg is highly significant. Lee Beom-jin lived in St Petersburg for the last ten years of his glorious life before his tragic suicide in 1911,’ Yulia Piskulova emphasised.

As an expert, I would like to highlight works about the culture and art of Korea. I believe the relevance of this topic is difficult to overestimate. I wish the Russians would know Korea not only as a country of high technologies, smart phones and beautiful cars. Undoubtedly, no less important is that Korea is a country with rich national traditions and cultural heritage.

Yulia Piskulova, President of the ‘Descendants of Independence Fighters’, the great-great-granddaughter of Lee Beom-jin

The winners in the category ‘Prospects for further development of relations between Korea and Russia in the fourth industrial revolution’ were Professor Sergei Belozerov and Associate Professor Elena Sokolovskaia (Faculty of Economics). Their research paper presents and analyses the current state of the modern financial technologies market in the Russian Federation and the Republic of Korea. It identifies the features of the modern technologies market, and studies its main segments. Based on their findings, the researchers suggest key potential areas of Russian-Korean cooperation in the field of financial technologies.

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Master’s student Elizaveta Vainberg (‘Pacific Studies’ programme) took first place in the category ‘Study on the Korean independence activists, such as Lee Beom-jin and Lee Wi-jong’. She submitted a research paper devoted to Choi Ik-hyeon, a scholar, politician, neo-Confucian thinker and fighter for Korean sovereignty of the second half of the 19th century. Elizaveta Vainberg’s academic advisor is Associate Professor Irina Lantsova (Department of American Studies).

Polina Zainullina, a St Petersburg University postgraduate student (‘Advertising and Public Relations’ programme), won the nomination ‘Topic of your choice on Korean-Russian Relations’ with her essay ‘Horizontal ties in Korean-Russian relations: “Korea – Russia Dialogue” forum and St Petersburg University’. The paper examines the activities of the University and the ‘Korea – Russia Dialogue’ forum in developing a constructive dialogue between the civil society organisations in both countries and their roles in the promotion of mutually beneficial and fruitful bilateral relations.

As a follow-up to the project, the best papers will be published in a special edition, and their authors will have the opportunity to visit South Korea.

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