Park to make historic visit to Iran next month

April 18, 2016

SEOUL, April 18 (Yonhap) — President Park Geun-hye plans to make a historic visit to Tehran next month for talks with her Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani, Cheong Wa Dae said Monday, a move that underscores South Korea’s efforts to boost ties and tap into business opportunities in the resource-rich country.

The trip — set for May 1 to 3 — comes as Iran has emerged as a lucrative business destination following the lifting of international sanctions earlier this year.

The sanctions imposed on Iran over its disputed nuclear program have been lifted in a follow-up to a nuclear deal reached with the United States and five world powers.

During the talks, Park and Rouhani are expected to exchange opinions on how to boost substantial cooperation in health, environment and culture as well as infrastructure, industrial plants and energy-related areas.

Iran is seeking large-scale infrastructure development projects to rebuild its economy that was hampered by the international sanctions.

The trip would be the first to the Islamic republic by a South Korean president since the two sides established diplomatic relations in 1962, according to the South Korean presidential office.

In November, South Korea’s top diplomat Yun Byung-se visited Iran — for the first time in 14 years. In February, South Korean Trade Minister Joo Hyung-hwan visited Tehran with a large business delegation.

The trade volume between Korea and Iran stood at US$6.1 billion in 2015.

Iran boasts the world’s fourth-largest known crude oil deposits and ranks No. 1 in terms of natural gas reserves.

In January, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Iran, becoming the first foreign leader to travel to Tehran following the lifting of sanctions.

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