Question: What are the areas in your country where you want Korean companies to invest and what are the areas where you wish your businessmen to invest in Korea?
Answer: Iran is a vast country with an area of 1,648,000 square kilometers, rich in natural and human resources with population of about 82 million.
Thirteen percent of the world's oil reserves and 18.2% of the world's proven natural gas reserves is located on Iranian territory. In other words, Iran is the second largest holder of hydrocarbons in the world.
Iran has a unique geostrategic and geopolitical position in the West Asia region. An important part of the Persian Gulf, a vital energy corridor of the world, lays within the sovereignty of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Iran is on the route connecting East -West, North - South Asia and plays an important role as Asia's transit corridor to Europe. For Korean companies, there are countless economic opportunities.
There are numerous investment opportunities laying in my country for Korean conglomerates. As a bridge located in four-way link between Asia, the Middle East and Europe, with vast and varied mineral resources alongside cheap energy opportunities enjoying young and active population of 25 million, more than half of whom are college-educated, Islamic Republic of Iran has given golden opportunities to international capital owners to invest in deferent fields.
Investing and joint venture in diverse sectors of the basic, upstream and downstream industries in the oil, gas and petrochemical sectors; participation in large infrastructure and development projects, such as road, rail, shipping, automotive, power, agriculture, fisheries, medicine and medical equipment; constructing and equipping hospitals and hitch industries are just some of the areas in which Korean companies can invest.
In terms of tourism, according to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Iran is in the top five in the world in terms of natural attractions and in the top 10 in terms of historical attractions in the world. Iran has a 7,000-year civilization history. Territorial diversity and the presence of the four seasons made it possible for foreign tourists to choose Iran as their destination.
By the last illegal imposed sanctions the number of tourists who visited my country reached 5 million. According to the government's plan by 2025, the number of foreign tourists in Iran should reach 20 million. In this regard, I would like to declare that the Tourism Organization of our country is ready to cooperate with Korean companies in investing in this sector.
Another very favorable area for cooperation is the participation and investment of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the field of knowledge-based technologies and start-ups. The Islamic Republic of Iran has made remarkable progress in recent years in the area of knowledge production and the development of the knowledge economy.
The pace of Iran's progress in this area can be traced statistically to the growth of the number of Iranian-based knowledge companies from 52 in 2014 to more than 3,500 in 2018. These companies accounted for 15% of Iran's export revenue this year
Q: What is the outlook of Iran as one of the major plyers in various fileds, especially in the region?
A: The Islamic Republic of Iran, with more than 1.6 square kilometers of territory, huge proven oil and natural gas reservations, and the most extended coastal border in the Persian Gulf region which gives dominant status in the Strait of Hormuz as the most important energy transit waterway in the world has a unique geopolitical, geostrategic, and geo-economics position in the middle east.
In this regard, it can be said that Iran offers fascinating and unignorably opportunities to its friends.
Q: Please introduce the National Day of Iran in full detail?
A: The nation day in Islamic Republic of Iran is celebrated on 11th of February each year to mark the victory of the Islamic revolution in 1979 the Islamic Revolution emerged victorious under the wise leadership of Imam Khomeini with massive and popular support of Iranian people from all walks of life.
The day marks events involving the overthrow of the last autocrat monarch and Pahlavi Dynasty. Shortly after the victory of revolution, in a nationwide referendum held on March 30 and 31. 1979. The people of Iran chose their favorable system of the government and Islamic Republic of Iran was born.
Q: Please introduce your Head of Government, including major achievements and family?
A: Before introducing the Honorable President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, it is necessary to a have a brief look at the Islamic Republic of Iran’s political structure. Political system of Iran is republican. The president is elected through election by direct vote for four-year term.
The president is the head of the executive power. The national assembly (Majlis of Islamic consultative) and the judicial powers of Iran are two other governmental bodies responsible for running the country along with the executive power. These governmental institutions are supported by the supervision and guidance of Ayatollah Ali Kamenev, the Supreme Leader of Iran.
President Rouhani among the first generation of Iranian clerics involved in Islamic Revolution, as a lawyer and prominent diplomat who takes over head of executive power of the Islamic Republic of Iran since August 2013.
He has also been a member of Iran’s Assembly of Experts since 1999, member of Expediency council since 1991 and a member of supreme national Security Council of Iran since 1989. President Rouhani was also deputy speaker of the fourth and fifth terms of the parliament of Iran (Majlis) and secretary of the supreme national security council of Iran from 1989 to 2005. In the latter capacity he was the countries to negotiator on nuclear disputes.
Negotiations which eventually led to a comprehensive nuclear agreement between Iran and the six countries; the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia and China (known as the P5 + 1) and EU.
At Rouhani's presidency epoch, we have witnessed Iran's pragmatic approach to foreign policy in international atmosphere. The culmination of this practical view to the Iran’s foreign relations must be sought in Iran’s tolerant and persevering policies in the face of developing pressures from US and some other European countries over Iran's peaceful nuclear activities.
From the beginning of Rouhani's presidency, government of Iran has adopted a constructive and peaceful approach to its bilateral relations relying on mutual respect via assigning of H.E Dr Zarif as Honorable Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iran. In this perspective, the Republic of Korea has a special position in the foreign policy of Mr. Rouhani's administrative among Northeastern Asian countries.
Q: Your Excellency as the Ambassador of Iran perform the important role of a bridge between Iran and Korea. Please introduce yourself in detail, including your career, family and hobbies?
A: First of all, I would like to express my pleasure for the opportunity to interview with the Korea Post. I wish it could have made earlier.
I welcome you to the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran on the eve of the 41st anniversary of the victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran and appreciate for arranging this interview.
I started my mission in South Korea as the Ambassador of Islamic Republic of Iran from October 2018. On 1988 as the Expert, Persian Gulf Affairs Division I, I started my career in ministry of foreign affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran as the political expert. Then from 1997 focusing on Eastern and Northeastern Asian countries, I have been involved in all aspects of bilateral relations at various missions mainly in China (two terms 1997-2001 & 2007-2010) in this region. I have also been to Saudi Arabia for my first mission from 1991 to 1994. I am married and have three daughters who are studying in Iran.
Q: What is your view of relations between Korea and Iran? What needs to be done to be done to further promote the close relations and friendship between the two countries?
A: The Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of Koreas relations have been friendly all the time. In Kush - Nameh, as one of the mythological legends of Iran, a Korean prince during the Sheila dynasty is mentioned who was married to an Iranian prince in Korea.
Despite the great geographical distance, Iran and South Korea have been able to maintain close relations with each other at different historical periods.
The main axis of relations between Iran and South Korea has been trade. Until 2018, Iran was one of the main suppliers of energy and gas condensate needed by South Korea. In return, the Iranian market has been opened to large and small Korean companies. But, with the start of unilateral, illegal, and unfair US sanctions against Iran, trade relations between the two countries have been affected by Korean companies' adherence to US sanctions policies and reduced from $12 billion in 2018 to close to zero now. In my opinion, the roots of the relations between the two countries are very deep.
Iran doesn’t see any noticeable barrier in expanding relations so whenever South Korea refuses to follow the US sanctions policies against Iran, Both countries will experience a further increase in the volume of trade relations and, consequently, in other dimensions of bilateral relations such as political, cultural, etc.
Therefore, it could be said a key role in expanding Iran-South Korea relations is Korea's non-compliance with the United States.
Q: Nowdays, economic cooperation is very important between the countries. What is the present volume of bilateral trade, its outlook in the next 12 months?
A: According the last published official statistics on trade between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of Korea, volume of transactions reached $20 million on December 2020. The total trade volume between Iran and South Korea in 2020 amounted to $195 million, which is insignificant compared to the trade capacity of the two countries.
Trade turnover between the two countries in 2017 and 2018 stood on $12.3 billion and $6.3 billion, respectively. It might be interesting that at a historical stage of bilateral trade relations in 2012, both countries experienced a prominent volume of trade of $14.7 billion.
South Korea became Iran's second largest trading partner after China at that time.
An important portion of this significant decline in Iran-South Korea trade relations is due to unfair and illegal unilateral U.S. sanctions against Iran followed by unlawful withdrawal of Trump administration from JCPOA.
As the Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran engaging close ties with most main trade partners of both countries, would like mention that neither of them expected such a decline in bilateral trade in this new period of illegal sanctions. Unfortunately Korean companies mostly have lost for the past year and some of them have even gone bankrupt.
Q: What are your competitive products and/over services attractive to Korea? Who are the companies of your country exporting your products to Korea?
A: What are the Korean products and services that your country might wish to import?
If we put the energy field aside, Korean companies have superiority over Iranian companies because of advanced hi-tech technological advantages.
If the conditions change and trade relations between the two countries improve, the Islamic Republic of Iran can be a very good market for Korean-made goods. Korean goods in Iran are very well-known.
Of course, the situation in Iran is changing rapidly. Today’s world is a world of competition. We cannot tell the Iranian people to wait for Korean goods. Conditions in the Iranian market are changing rapidly for Korea’s competitors. I have repeatedly warned the Korean counterparts of this situation. Our people say “we have money in Korean Banks and would like to benefit from it in bilateral trade”.
In connection with the Korean market for Iranian products, a wide range of agricultural products, such as pomegranates, strawberries, legumes and nuts, can be listed as Korea’s exportable items. In the field of industrial products, Iran has made significant progress in the field of nanotechnology products in recent years.
You may be surprised to find out that the reliable and efficient masks available in the Chinese and South Korean markets to protect from new coronary artery disease in the East Asian region are made by using Iranian native nanotechnology.
Q: Who are the major Korean companies actively engaged in bilateral economic cooperation?
A: As mentioned, economic cooperation has an important role in bilateral relations. The Islamic Republic of Iran and The Republic of Korea also are not exceptional.
The Republic of Korea is one of the advanced economies in the Northeast Asia region which has had special role in Iran's economic development. The Islamic Republic of Iran has always embraced Korean companies and SMEs with open arms.
On the other hand, a significant necessity for rapid economic growth of the Republic of Korea has been achieved through Iran’s energy resources such as crude oil and natural gas and condensates. There has also been a strong economic bond between the public and private sectors of two countries.
I would like to reiterate that in recent years, large Korean companies have been able to gain a good and even competitive position in the 80 million Iranian market which could be extended to 800 million market if the central Asian and Middle East countries included. .
Regarding your Question about the successful Korean companies in my country, indeed in current situation, I would rather not name them. Hope you would find out why by the end of the interview through further explanations.
Q: Korean People, especially the up-and-coming Korean businessmen need rest recuperation. What are your tourist attractions?
A: The tourist attractions in Iran are undoubtedly among the most attractive in the world. Iran has diverse cultures and civilizations which have grown and evolved within Iran throughout the long history.
Due to its historical background and sustainable social and cultural evolution, Iran has a lot of interesting sights that satisfy tourists with different tastes.
Iran is a land of four seasons due to its special geographical location. Four seasons in the sense that at any time of the year you can travel to one of the cities of Iran to witness a different climate. In winter, there are cities in Iran that have a summer climate.
In winter, you can enjoy winter games at Dizin Ski Resort, the largest ski resort in the Middle East, and at the same time witness the spring weather on Kish Island, which is why it is a beautiful and spectacular destination for tourists. According to the Ministry of Tourism of the Islamic Republic of Iran, more than 8 million foreign tourists visited Iran in 2019.
Iran is one of the top 5 countries in the world in terms of climate and biodiversity and is among the top 10 countries in the world in terms of history and culture.
Historical monuments, which belong to the different periods of human settlement in the plateau of Iran, along with diverse natural, coastal, mountainous, and nomadic landscapes, make a coordinated and attractive combination for every tourist. The existing historical monuments in Shiraz, Isfahan, Hamadan, Kerman, Mashhad, Tabriz, Yazd, Tehran and many other cities are incentives enough for visiting this country.
Every traveler who travels to Iran with any motivation can find the desired sights in Iran according to their goals, tastes, and plans. Iran is an attractive, safe, cheap, and convenient country for tourists.
Q: What are the most important festive days in your country? Please elaborate?
A: Iran is a beautiful country with a unique ancient civilization and culture that has its own beautiful customs. Customs that have been passed down from generation to generation and have created feasts and celebrations.
There are many religious and cultural ceremonies and celebrations in Iran that are held annually. Behind all the celebrations that take place in Iran, there are philosophies and beliefs, and the manner of holding each one is special and unique.
One of the most important festivals in Iran is Nowruz (which was registered as an intangible cultural heritage in UNESCO in 2009), Yalda night, Chaharshanbeh Soori, Sizdeh Badr,
This is while each of the provinces of Iran has its own celebrations and rituals. Dear readers of Korea Post Magazine, for getting acquainted with Iran, Iranian culture and festivals, can refer to the Embassy's website at the following address:
Q: Do you have a Korean Honorary Consul and/or Honorary Consul General? If yes, how are they contributing to the promotion of cooperation and friendship between the two countries?
A: The Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran does not have an honorary consul or consul in South Korea. Economic and business relations are handled by the Embassy’s economic experts. Currently, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Iran and South Korea are pursuing bilateral trade affairs within the framework of the Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Mines of Iran.
Q: Please add whatever other details that your Excellency might consider to be important?
Relations between the people of Iran and Korea have an ancient history. This background can be traced back to the position of the Sheila Empire in Persian Kush.
At the present time, the naming of two beautiful and important streets of Tehran and Seoul in the capitals of the two countries expresses the interest and connection of the hearts of the people of Iran and Korea to each other.
Fifty-nine years have passed since the beginning of diplomatic relations between Iran and Korea in 1962 and The Islamic Republic of Iran has always strived to play a constructive role in the context of mutual respect and peaceful coexistence with South Korea’s friendly country, taking into account its position.
The Islamic Republic of Iran has always been one of the most stable and reliable sources of energy. In other words, the engine of South Korea’s economy and witnessed the continued supply of oil to the country during the oil crisis of the 1970s.
As the United States withdrew from its nuclear deal with the five Security Council members and Germany (P5+1), the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), in May 2018 and imposed a new round of unilateral and illegal economic sanctions against Iran, the adoption of this policy by Koreans has significantly reduced trade cooperation with the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Anyway, as the ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran, it is my duty to convey to our Korean friends the message of friendship between the Iranian government and the nation.
The Iranian market is still ready to accept the capital of Korean companies and their products. Time is limited and our Korean friends are losing their further opportunities in Iran. I’m sure if the Korean companies would reconsider their approaches to working with Iran at current period, the Iranian counterparts would welcome them.