SEOUL -- Russian Ambassador to the Republic of Korea, Georgy Zinoviev, led a floral tribute commemorating the 120th anniversary of the Battle of Chemulpo that ended with the sinking of two Russian Navy warships near the western port city of Incheon in 1904. The tribute took place at St. Petersburg Square in Incheon's Chemulpo harbor.
"This year marks the 120th anniversary of the heroic battle fought by the cruiser Varyag and the gunboat Koreets against the Imperial Japanese Navy fleet in Inchon Bay on February 9, 1904, the first day of the Russo-Japanese War," stated Ambassador Zinoviev during the annual memorial event on February 9.
During the Battle of Chemulpo Bay in 1904, Captain Vsevolod Rudnev, commanding the Varyag, refused an ultimatum by Admiral Uryu Sotokichi of the Imperial Japanese Navy to surrender. Despite being vastly outnumbered and outgunned, Koreets managed to fire 52 rounds at the Japanese vessels. While Varyag sustained significant damage, Koreets incurred only light harm from shrapnel, resulting in no casualties.
After the battle, both Koreets and Varyag retreated to Chemulpo harbor, where they were deliberately sunk by their crews. Two ammunition magazines were detonated. Subsequently, the crew was rescued by the French cruiser Pascal and transported to Saigon before being repatriated to Russia. All officers were awarded the Order of St. George (4th class), the highest military honor in the Russian Empire, upon their return to St. Petersburg.
"On this day, following our cherished tradition, we lay floral tributes at the memorial to the Russian naval personnel near the sinking site of the Varyag in Incheon's St. Petersburg Square. Russians hold dear the memory of the brave heroes who valiantly fought against the Japanese forces in the waters off Korea," added Ambassador Zinoviev.
The official diplomatic relationship between South Korea and Russia was established in 1990, just before the collapse of the Soviet Union. However, the friendship between the two countries dates back to the 19th century. The Russo-Korean Treaty of 1884, signed between the Russian Empire and the Joseon Dynasty (1392~1897), provided safe havens for Koreans during Japanese imperial colonial rule (1910~1945).
According to the Russian Embassy in Seoul, Russia played a significant role in the independence of the Korean peninsula from the Japanese occupation by assisting independence activists and hosting refugees from Joseon. Additionally, Moscow aided Seoul in developing missile and rocket technologies after the establishment of formal diplomatic relations between Russia and South Korea. Many South Korean military armored vehicles, missiles, and rockets were based on Russian technology transferred after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
However, the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine, which began in February 2022, poses a challenge to Russo-South Korean relations. Despite diplomatic tensions, both countries express a desire for continued cooperation and mutual development.
"Russia and Korea are bound by a long-standing friendship and cooperative relations. This year marks the 140th anniversary of the signing of the first Russo-Korean Treaty of Amity and Commerce in 1884. Since establishing relations in the 19th century, Russia has remained a steadfast neighbor to Korea, significantly contributing to the peace and security of the Korean Peninsula," stated Ambassador Zinoviev.
Zinoviev stressed the importance of continued dialogue and cooperation between Seoul and Moscow: "We are confident that continued dialogue and cooperation between Russia and Korea serve the interests of both nations."
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