Iran–South Korea relations

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Iran–South Korea relations
Map indicating locations of Iran and South Korea


South Korea

Iran and South Korea have had diplomatic relations since 1962.[1] Throughout history, the two countries have maintained a strong, friendly and strategic partnership despite Iran's close relationship with North Korea, and South Korea's close relationship with the United States.

The big friendship between Korea and Iran is often referred as "Korea-Iran One Heart One Soul" (Persian: Korea–Iran yek-deli ; Korean: 한국 -이란 하나의 마음 하나의 영혼).[2]

Early and Ancient History[edit]

Korea's and Iran's long-running relationship started with cultural exchanges date back to the Three Kingdoms of Korea era, more than 1600 years ago by the way of the Silk Road. A dark blue glass found in the Cheonmachong Tomb, one of Silla's royal tombs unearthed in Gyeongju. An exotic golden sword found in Gyerim-ro, a street also located in Gyeongju. These are all relics that are presumed to be sent to Silla from ancient Iran or Persia through the Silk Road. It was only the Koryeo Dynasty during King HyeonJong's reign when trade with Persia was officially recorded in Korean history. But in academic circles, it is presumed that both countries had active cultural exchanges during the 7th century Silla era which means the relationship between Korea and Iran began more than 1500 years ago."If a history book written by the Persian scholar Khurdadbid, it states that Silla is located at the eastern end of China and reads 'In this beautiful country Silla, there is much gold, majestetic cities and hardworking people. Their culture is comparable with Persia'.[2]

“We have a myth in an ancient Persian book (The Kushnameh) that tells of a Persian prince who went to Silla in the seventh century and got married with a Korean princess, thus forming a royal marriage.” Park Geun-hye said during a Festival celebrating Iran and Korea’s 1500’s years of shared cultural ties. She then said, “this is actually quite a good plot for making a film together.” Her suggestion was received with a lot of applause.[2]

Other items uncovered during the excavation include a silver bowl engraved with an image of the Persian goddess Anahita; a golden dagger from Persia; clay busts; and figurines portraying Middle Eastern merchants. Samguk Sagi—the official chronicle of the Three Kingdoms era, compiled in 1145—contains further descriptions of commercial items sold by Middle Eastern merchants and widely used in Silla society. The influence of Persian culture was profoundly felt in other ways as well, most notably in the fields of music, visual arts, and literature. The popularity of Iranian designs in Korea can be seen in the widespread use of pearl-studded roundels and symmetrical, zoomorphic patterns. An ancient Persian epic poem, the Kushnameh, contains detailed descriptions of Silla.[3]

Relations with imperial Iran[edit]

South Korea and Iran established relations on 1962 August; in 1967 April Iranian Embassy in South Korea opened.[4]

List of Ambassador of South Korea in Iran[5][edit]

Order Diplomat name Term
초대 1. 노석찬(盧錫瓚) 1967. 4
제 2대 2. 김종규(金種圭) [6] 1971. 3
제 2대 3. 현시학(玄時學) 1974. 5
제 4대 4. 김동휘(金東輝 1978. 8
제 5대 5. 이창희(李昌熙) 1980. 6
제 6대 6. 심기철(沈基哲) 1980.12
? 공사 강승구(姜勝求) 1982. 9
제 7대 7. 민형기(閔形基) 1985. 6
? 강신성(姜信盛) 1987. 9 (미부임)
제 8대 8. 오정일(吳正一) 1988. 3
제 9대 9. 정경일(鄭慶逸) 1989. 6
제 10대 10. 이상열(李相悅) 1992. 4
제 11대 11. 신성오(辛成梧) 1994. 2
제 12대 12. 김재규(金在珪) 1996. 3
제 13대 13. 신장범(愼長範) 1998. 5
제 14대 14. 이상철(李相哲) 2001. 2
제 15대 15. 백기문(白基文) 2003. 9
제 16대 16. 임홍재(任洪宰) 2005. 9
제 17대 17. 김영목(金永穆) 2007. 10
제 18대 18. 박재현 대사 2010. 8
제 19대 19. 송웅엽 대사 2012. 9
제 20대 20. 김승호 대사 2015. 10 ~ 현재

Nuclear program[edit]

In June 2007, South Korea’s then-foreign minister, Song Min-soon, supported a diplomatic solution to the international disagreement over Iran’s nuclear program.[7] In November 2008, South Korea’s next foreign minister, Yu Myung-hwan, said that Iran needs to reassure the international community of the peaceful nature of its nuclear program. According to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, a South Korean, "the Iranian foreign minister stressed that his country is pushing for a nuclear program for peaceful purposes.”[8]

Economic relationship[edit]

Iran and South Korea enjoy strong economic ties with bilateral trade totaling roughly $10 billion in 2008.[9] Despite disagreements over Iran’s nuclear enrichment activity, Vice President of the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency Hong Ki-Wha and the head of Iran’s Investment and Technical and Economic Assistances Organization, Mohammad Khaza’i, signed a memorandum of understanding in April 2007, in which they agreed to form a committee with the aim of boosting trade between their two countries.[10] Kim Sung Gun, South Korea’s parliamentary delegation head to Iran in March 2007 noted that Korean companies are eager to invest in Iran and added that he hopes the two countries can encourage bilateral investment.[11]

According to a Middle East Economic Survey, Iran exported 157,000 barrels of crude oil per day to South Korea in July 2009. Though South Korea has decreased total crude oil imports from the Middle East by 14.7% compared to the previous year, Iran remains South Korea’s fourth largest source of crude oil.[12]

In May 2009, South Korean ministers participated in a major conference on foreign investment in Iran.[13] South Korea also attended the Iranian gas forum on September 26–27, 2009 alongside Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan, the Netherlands, and Malaysia.[14]

According to a report by the United States government, as of April 2010 there were three South Korean firms active in Iran’s hydrocarbon sector between 2005 and 2009 that received US government contracts totaling roughly $880 million. These were the Daelim Industrial Company, Hyundai Heavy Industries, and GS Engineering and Construction.[15] On July 3, 2010, Iran the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) cancelled a $1.2 billion contract with GS Engineering and Construction, accusing the firm of failing to fulfill its obligations. The South Korean company had been tasked with removing hydrogen sulfide from gas pumped from Iran’s South Pars gas field after signing an agreement in October 2009.[16]

Iran has about local 2,500 SME trading partners in South Korea. It said that more than 600 out of the 2,500 firms see their ratio of exports to Iran exceed 50 percent.[17]

Diplomatic/military cooperation[edit]

South Korea and Iran have continuously disagreed on the latter’s nuclear enrichment activities. In January 2007, Ban Ki-Moon, South Korea’s former foreign minister, assumed the position of UN Secretary General. Since assuming office, Ban has supported a number of sanctions against the Islamic Republic for failing to comply with the International Atomic Energy Agency, further straining relations between the two countries.[18] Impediments notwithstanding, South Korea and Iran have had a number of official meetings to discuss bilateral trade and political cooperation and have signed several memorandums of understanding, including on media cooperation, trade-investment, and technical cooperation between the two.[19]

During a March 2009 meeting between National Assembly Speaker of South Korea Kim Hyong-o and Iranian Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Hashemi Shahroudi, Kim expressed his hope that Iran and South Korea expand parliamentary cooperation.[20] That same month, the Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister in Asia and Pacific Affairs suggested that Iran and South Korea should cooperate to help establish security in Afghanistan.[9]

In November 2009, Iran announced that it was prepared to aid in resolving the Korean peninsula crisis. Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said that Iran welcomes mutual understanding and agreement between South and North Korea to promote peace and stability in the region. During a meeting with South Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Lee Yong-Jon at the end of October 2009, Mottaki said that “mutual cooperation has not been balanced in all fields and we hope to be able to make it more balanced.” The South Korean senior diplomat responded that “we want promotion of ties in all economic fields and implementing joint projects and deepening bilateral cooperation in direction of mutual interests.”[21]

On January 6, 2010, the head of the Iran-South Korea parliamentary friendship group, Hossein Hashemi, and Speaker Kim Hyong-o met in Seoul in order to discuss ways to foster bilateral cooperation, particularly, in the economic and energy sectors.[22] During the meeting, Hyong-o referred to the ample potentials existing on both sides for increasing mutual cooperation and expressed satisfaction over the growth of bilateral ties between the two countries. On Iran's nuclear issue, he stressed Iran's right to use peaceful nuclear energy, and added "all countries are entitled to use peaceful nuclear energy and we believe Iran's nuclear program is for civilian purposes."[23]

In April 2010, in an effort to improve the two countries’ “mutual understanding and acquaintance,” South Korea and Iran agreed to exchange news and media teams and enhance current levels of educational and technical collaboration. The decision to expand cooperation in the field of media was taken following a meeting between Islamic Republic News Agency Directory Ali-Akbar Javanfekr and Lee Seung Jung, the head of the South Korea Press Association.[24]

Although “high politics” ties between the two countries are not especially developed, Seoul and Tehran have taken steps to engage each other in cultural spheres. In May 2009, the South Korean Vice-Cultural Minister Jae-min Shin and the South Korean Ambassador to Tehran Kim Young-mok attended a ceremony entitled “Korea, Sparkling Night in Iran” where both officials expressed the hope that such events would bring about improved political, economic and cultural relations between South Korea and Iran.[25] In October 2009, South Korea’s Pusan International Film festival will host two Iranian filmmakers, Payment Hagani and Mahmoud Kalari. The Iranian filmmakers will present their films as well as participate in an educational workshop for aspiring Asian directors.[26] Furthermore, the Iran National Library and Archives (INLA) has agreed to work to increase bilateral cooperation with the National Library of [South] Korea. In March 2010, INLA Director Ali-Akbar Ashari met with his South Korean counterpart, Chul-min Mo, to sign an agreement pledging to exchange experience in staff training and library science, and to hold book fairs.[27]

Improving relations from 2016 May[edit]

After lifting international sanctions of Iran, President Park Geun-hye and a total of 236 businessmen and women visited Iran on 2016 May 2, 3[28]

Summary of visit:

TEHRAN, May 3 (Yonhap) -- President Park Geun-hye said Tuesday South Korea and Iran can produce a win-win situation if they work together in infrastructure projects in the Iran.

Iran is pushing to rebuild an economy and modernize its infrastructure after the U.N. lifted sanctions in a follow-up to a landmark deal reached with the United States and five world powers over Tehran's disputed nuclear program.

"I am here to pursue the path of common prosperity with our old friend Iran,” Park said in a forum attended by some 450 South Korean and Iranian business executives and leaders in the Iranian capital. On Monday, Park and Rouhani observed the signing of nearly 20 out of 66 memorandums of understanding worth up to US$45.6 billion after their summit. Seoul hopes the MOUs could pave the way for South Korean companies to eventually win massive infrastructure projects under way in Iran. She also said she expects the MOUs signed between the two governments on transportation and infrastructure as well as water resources to further boost bilateral cooperation down the line. South Korea and Iran “can produce a win-win outcome in overall infrastructure” projects, including railways and airport, Park said at the business gathering.

The forum is part of South Korea’s efforts to help business executives from both countries build a network and facilitate economic cooperation. More than 230 South Korean business executives and leaders have accompanied the president on her state visit to the Islamic Republic to explore new business opportunities. Park also called for efforts to facilitate and diversify trade. The trade volume between Korea and Iran stood at US$6.1 billion in 2015, compared with $17.4 billion in 2011. Rouhani said the two countries could boost bilateral trade to more than $30 billion in five years.

“I believe that my visit could serve as an important occasion to secure momentum for the development of bilateral relations and to strengthen substantial cooperation,” Park said in a separate meeting with nearly 20 representatives from the Korean community in Iran.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "South Korea Embassy in Iran".
  2. ^ a b c "Cultural ties put Iran, S Korea closer than ever for cooperation". Tehran Times. 2016-05-05. Retrieved 2017-04-12.
  3. ^ "1,500 Years of Contact between Korea and the Middle East". Middle East Institute. Retrieved 2017-04-12.
  4. ^ "Koreans in the Persian Gulf_ Policies and International Relations - Shirzad Azad - Google Books".
  5. ^ "List of Ambassador of South Korea in Iran".
  6. ^ "오스트리아 李成佳씨 이란大使엔 金鍾圭씨". 동아일보. 1971-02-11. p. 1.
  7. ^ “S. Korea Urges Settlement of Iran's Nuclear Case Through Diplomacy,” IRNA, June 4, 2007 (February 11, 2009)
  8. ^ “South Korea asks Iran to dispel nuclear concerns,” Yonhap, November 13, 2008 (February 11, 2009)
  9. ^ a b “Iran Calls For Joint Projects With South Korea In Afghanistan,” Fars News Agency, March 18, 2009
  10. ^ “Iran, S. Korea To Pursue Joint Trade,” Press TV, April 8, 2007 (February 17, 2009)
  11. ^ “Iran-South Korea emphasize on good economic ties”, Iran Defense Forum, March 12, 2007
  12. ^ “Iran Fourth Crude Exporter to South Korea,” MojNews, September 16, 2009, "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-07-26. Retrieved 2011-06-01.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link) (August 31, 2009)
  13. ^ “Foreign Investment Conference To Be held In Iran,” Islamic Republic News Agency, May 27, 2009, "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-06-16. Retrieved 2011-06-01.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link) (May 27, 2009)
  14. ^ Third Iran Gas Forum: September 26–27 in Tehran,” Payvand News, September 23, 2006, (September 23, 2009)
  15. ^ “Factbox- Foreign Companies Stepping Away from Iran,” Reuters, July 5, 2010 (July 5, 2010)
  16. ^ “Iran Scraps US$1.2 Billion Gas Deal With South Korea,” Bernama, July 3, 2010 (July 5, 2010)
  17. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-04-13. Retrieved 2014-04-11.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  18. ^ “Ban Ki-moon ‘deeply concerned’ by Iran’s refusal to suspend uranium enrichment,” UN News Center, February 22, 2007 (February 17, 2009)
  19. ^ “Iran, S. Korea To Pursue Joint Trade,” Press TV, April 8, 2007 (February 17, 2009) ; “Iran, South Korea Discuss Media Cooperation”, Fars News Agency, January 30, 2009.
  20. ^ “South Korea Calls For Parliamentary Cooperation With Iran,” IRNA, March 17, 2009
  21. ^ “Iran Ready to Mediate Between Two Korease,” Xinhua, October 18, 2009, (November 7, 2009)
  22. ^ " Iran, S.Korea confer on promoting cooperation”, ISNA, 6 January 2010, "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-04-12. Retrieved 2011-06-01.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  23. ^ " Iranian Parliamentary Delegation Visits S. Korea", Fars News Agency, 6 January 2010, "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-06-01. Retrieved 2011-06-01.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  24. ^ “Iran, S Korea to Exchange News Teams,” IRNA, April 23, 2010
  25. ^ “’Korea, Sparkling Night in Iran’ helps raise funds for Iranian Children suffering from cancer,” Pavyand Iran News, September 16, 2009 (May 5, 2009)
  26. ^ “South Korea to host two Iranian filmmakers,” Press TV, September 16, 2009 "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-04-05. Retrieved 2011-06-01.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link) (September 9, 2009)
  27. ^ “National Libraries of Iran and S. Korea Sign Agreement”, Mehr News Agency, March 13, 2010
  28. ^ "President Park Geun Hye Visited Iran, Yonhap News".