Korea president mulls first ever Iran visit
South Korean President Park Geun-hye is considering visiting Iran as the Asian country seeks to tap into business opportunities there, the Yonhap news agency says.
The announcement was made by presidential spokesman Jeong Yeon-guk to reporters in Seoul on Wednesday, without specifying the date of the visit but various South Korean reports put it for either April or May.
“The President is considering a visit to Iran and we will soon disclose the dates when they are confirmed,” Jeong said, according to Yonhap.
The visit would be the first ever to Iran by a South Korean president, coming on the heels of a recent lifting of sanctions on the Islamic Republic, which has unleashed a flurry of interest in the country.
Asian rush, European deals
On Saturday, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Tehran at the head of a large political and trade delegation, marking a “new chapter in strategic economic cooperation” with the signing of 17 documents.
Japan, another major Iranian trade partner in Asia, lifted sanctions on the Islamic Republic last Friday, paving the way for an imminent conclusion of a bilateral investment agreement.
Taiwanese companies, meanwhile, are likely among the first in Asia to restart trade relations with Iran after the lifting of sanctions.
On Monday, Taiwan’s refiners said they will increase crude imports from Iran this year, paving the way for the OPEC producer to regain its market share in Asia.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is currently on a five-day tour of Europe, signing more than a dozen accords worth about $20 billion in Italy and looking to further deals in France on Wednesday and Thursday.
‘Land of opportunity’
Iran is billed as the largest emerging market closed to business since the fall of the Soviet Union, with a tremendous chest of resources including oil and gas reserves, which combined are the world’s largest.
Yonhap described Iran as “a land of opportunity” following the lifting of sanctions and the Korea Times daily dubbed it “a promising market.”
South Korea’s exports to Iran rose to $4.14 billion in 2014, up 8.3% year-on-year, according to data compiled by the state-run Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency.
Earlier this month, South Korea’s official export credit agency KEXIM said it was raising its sovereign credit rating for Iran by one notch in anticipation of a strong economic growth.
The agency has already pledged to provide financial support to Korean firms trying to secure business in Iran as international companies jockey to enter the market.
Executives of Hyundai and Daewoo engineering and construction companies and other private builders such as Daelim Industrial Co, Eximbank and Korea Expressway Corp visited Tehran last August.
They were among 30 representatives of oil, gas and construction industries accompanying South Korean Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transport Yoo Il-ho on an official visit to Iran.