SEOUL-- South Korea and Russia agreed Wednesday to cooperate closely in exploring Arctic sea routes, the foreign ministry here said.

The two countries held their first Arctic Consultation in Seoul earlier in the day, headed by South Korean Amb. for Arctic Affairs Kim Young-jun and his Russian counterpart Amb. Vladimir Barbin, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

"The two sides consented to close cooperation in order to expand utilization of Arctic routes in the future," the ministry said.

Russia is one of the eight members of the Arctic Council, a regional group of countries around the North Pole and one of South Korea's most important partners for Arctic affairs, the ministry said.

South Korea could cut about one-third of its travel distance to the Far East or Europe if its ships use Arctic routes instead of their current routes linking the country's Busan port to Amsterdam, according to the ministry.

In Wednesday's meeting, the two sides discussed joint efforts in exploring shipping routes across the North Pole and shipbuilding including an icebreaker, as well as holding global forums on Arctic issues, the ministry noted.

They also agreed to hold the Arctic Consultation every year, with the next session to be held in Russia.

Source: Yonhap News Agency