Apr 14, 2021, 12:00 PM
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Visit of S Korea PM  to Tehran an opportunity to boost ties

Tehran, April 14, IRNA - A three-day visit by South Korean Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun to Tehran is the first of its kind after 44 years, which is expected to pave the ground for strengthening bilateral relations between Seoul and Tehran.

South Korea and Iran have always attached importance to economic and trade ties along with political relations; although their mutual political and economic relationship faced ups and downs in recent years; however, there is meaningful hope that their ties will expand especially after resolving the issue of freezing of Iranian assets in South Korean banks.

South Korea did not halt economic, technical and industrial cooperation with Iran even amid the eight-year war imposed by the Baathist regime of Saddam Hussain in Iraq.

The trade volume between South Korea and Iran increased from 500 million dollars in 1978 to 12 billion dollars in 2017. But the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in May 2018 and the re-imposition of unilateral sanctions on Iran change the course of economic ties between Seoul and Tehran. 

As a result of the illegal sanctions, the annual trade exchanges between South Korea and Iran declined from 6.3 billion dollars in 2018 to 2.4 billion dollars in 2019 and the volume fell by less than half in 2020.

The issue of blockage of Iran’s assets in South Korea has been repeatedly addressed by the Iranian officials in recent years. The South Korean premier’s visit to Tehran has strengthened hopes that Seoul wants to release the assets and the current relations will be returned to the level that was experienced before the US withdrawal from the JCPOA.

Chung Sye-kyun heading a high-ranking delegation arrived in Tehran on Sunday afternoon. The South Korean premier was well-received by Minister of Roads and Urban Development Mohammad Eslami, and then Iran's First Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri held official ceremony at Sa’daabad Palace in Tehran.

Jahangiri asked Chung to pave the way to release the Iranian assets worth 7 billion dollars as soon as possible in order to make amend problems in mutual relations.

During the meeting and next sessions with other Iranian officials, both sides discussed the ways to release Iran’s assets.

The South Korean prime minister underlined in a meeting with Ali Larijani, Supreme Leader’s advisor, that his government will try to release blocked assets of Iran very soon in a bid to end diplomatic standstill between Tehran and Soul. 

In a meeting with the South Korean premier, Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf, Iran's Parliament Speaker, criticized Seoul’s authorities for their behavior in dealing with anti-Iran sanctions, warning that Iranian people have a negative viewpoint on South Koreans because of their deeds in recent years.

The three-day visit came to an end on Tuesday. The trip helped Iranians hope that South Korea is serious to release the assets and restart good relationship with Iran.

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