With Sanctions Lifted, South Korea Eyes Investment Links to Iran

With Sanctions Lifted, South Korea Eyes Investment Links to Iran
South Korean President Park Geun-hye at a joint press conference with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Tehran, May 2, 2016 (AP photo by Ebrahim Noroozi).

South Korean President Park Geun-hye visited Iran earlier this month, pledging to forge ahead and establish a new era of relations with Tehran built on closer economic cooperation. During the three-day visit, Park and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani agreed to 30 joint economic projects, totaling more than $37.1 billion. The two sides also agreed to more than 50 memorandums of understanding dealing with everything from infrastructure cooperation and joint energy ventures to work on medical and health care projects.

South Korea was eager to quickly restore relations with Tehran following the finalization of last year’s nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1. As an indication of her desire to expeditiously improve ties, Park was accompanied by a delegation of more than 200 business officials, representing key South Korean firms interested in investment in Iran. Seoul has also signaled a political commitment to rebuilding ties with Tehran by committing to annual foreign minister-level meetings and regular exchanges with other key ministers on economic issues.

Under the brunt of United Nations Security Council sanctions over Iran’s nuclear program, South Korean trade with Iran suffered over the past five years, dropping precipitously from $17.4 billion in 2011 to only $6.1 billion in 2015. During their meeting, Park and Rouhani agreed to significantly reverse this trend in the coming years with a goal of increasing bilateral trade to $30 billion by 2021.

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