Iran welcomes investments after nuclear deal

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Iran welcomes investments after nuclear deal

The Iranian Embassy last week celebrated the 37th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution as well as the recent resolution of the country’s nuclear agreement, opening the doors for cooperation with Korea.

In 1979, Iranians led a series of demonstrations to unseat the dictatorial Pahlavi dynasty and established an Islamic Republic based on a modern culture and religious democracy, said Iranian Ambassador to Korea Hassan Taherian at a reception in Seoul.

Particularly this year, he added, the anniversary coincided with the fruition of the Iranian nuclear deal, “one of the most complicated diplomatic crises of this decade” deftly managed by the Tehran government.

The landmark accord -- known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action -- was reached on July 14, involving the U.S., U.K., Russia, France, China, Germany and the European Union, to curb Iran’s nuclear development program.

Under the deal, Iran agreed to eliminate its stockpile of medium-enriched uranium, cut its stockpile of low-enriched uranium by 98 percent and reduce two-thirds of its gas centrifuges over the next 13 years. 

“Iran succeeded in reaching a historic accord with six world powers, turning the unnecessary crisis into a cooperative platform,” the ambassador stressed in a speech. “By limiting our nuclear development activities and accepting the highest levels of transparency and inspection, Iran demonstrated once again that it had never intended to build an atomic bomb.”

Calling the compact a “diplomatic victory,” Taherian said the removal of economic sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council stoked worldwide interest in Iran’s vast, underutilized market, with more than 50 foreign delegations visiting over the last three months.

In November last year, Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se visited Tehran, following former Korean Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transport Yoo Il-ho in August. Korean President Park Geun-hye is planning the country’s first ever state visit in the near future, the diplomat said.

The agreement is expected to have a positive impact on the Korean economy, according to Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which said Korean companies can benefit from the lucrative opportunities in petroleum and natural gas, petrochemicals, shipping, shipbuilding, harbor construction, automobile production and precious metals.

Before the sanctions, some 2,500 Korean companies engaged in business with Iran, and they were hit hard, with $17 billion in bilateral trade reduced by two-thirds.

A Middle East powerhouse with 80 million people and a large territory endowed with rich natural resources -- natural gas, oil and various minerals -- Iran has large development potential in oil and gas, hydropower, highways and roads, communications networks, automobile production, electronic goods, cosmetics and health care, according to Korean Ambassador to Iran Kim Seung-ho.

He has reiterated to the media that Iranians, who are largely young and well educated in mathematics, medicine and engineering, have favorable feelings toward Korea, thanks to popular Korean TV dramas and workers’ diligence.

“That Koreans are hardworking and trustworthy is already well-known in Iran,” he said, advising potential investors to establish stable and sustainable commercial partnerships by setting up production lines in Iran, use Iranian subcomponents in production, transfer their knowledge and technology, set up joint ventures for third markets and supply capital in construction projects.

To reap maximum benefits there, Kim said, firms should move beyond traditional sectors of petroleum, natural gas, petrochemicals, steel and construction, and enter the services industry, which makes up half of Iran’s gross domestic product. He also cautioned that the country’s legal and administrative framework covering taxation, labor and accounting lacked transparency and consistency.

Tehran and Seoul established diplomatic relations in 1962, and over the years, they have developed “a relatively friendly and strong relationship,” according to Taherian, who cited Tehran Street in Seoul and Seoul Street in Tehran as evidence. Noting that Korean companies have long been in Iran for infrastructure and construction, the envoy said the Korea-Iran Joint Economic Commission will be held on Feb. 29 in Tehran, alongside a large business forum involving various companies.

Seoul has expressed commitment to support companies entering Iran as part of its key economic diplomacy. In late January, the second task force meeting involving various ministries was held in Seoul to discuss strengthening high-level visits, Iran’s relations with neighboring states, monetary issues in trade and investment, financial support for Korean companies, potential infrastructure projects and enhancing collaboration in shipping and health care.

Korea’s Health Minister Chung Chin-you indicated in a speech that 20,000 Korean workers had participated in construction projects in Iran in the 1970s, laying a firm foundation for bilateral ties.

He added that an agreement on a memorandum of understanding was nearing completion to start constructing a general hospital at Tehran University of Medical Science and to transfer Korea’s expertise and knowledge.