By Publisher Lee Kyung-sik of The Korea Post media with Editor Linda Youn
“The trade between Iran and Korea surpassed $12 billion last year. During this period, Iran's exports to Korea grew by 100% to $8 billion compared with the same period last year. Korea's exports to Iran were $ 4 billion, up 12%.” So said Ambassador Hassan Taherian of Iran in Seoul at a recent interview with The Korea Post media at the Embassy of Iran in Seoul which was conducted on the occasion of the National Day of Iran on Feb. 11, 2018.
“Today,” said Ambassador Taherian, “the Islamic Republic of Iran is one of the main suppliers crude oil to Korea, and the two countries have signed documents for cooperation in transportation, agriculture, health, industry, energy sectors and various other sectors.” Details of the interview follow:
Question: What are the details of the National Day of Iran? Please introduce the National Day of Iran.
Answer: The national day in 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 the Islamic Republic of Iran was born.
Q: Korea and Iran are getting closer with each other these days. What are the present status and outlook of the bilateral relations?
A: Iran and Korea established their diplomatic relations in 1962. Through all these years, the two countries have maintained strong and friendly relationship. The presence of the Tehran Street in Gangnam district of Seoul, as well as the Seoul Street in North of Tehran, are the symbol and remainder of that long friendship endured for more than half a century. During the last half century, two countries have forged a solid relation and contributed to each other’s economic development.
The Iranian officials have always maintained positive views toward South Korea and supported the expansion of bilateral relations in all area and believe that such co-operation can contribute to the further friendly relation between the two countries. We have had quite a few numbers of reciprocal high ranking visits by officials from both sides in last year.
Q: What is the present status of economic relations between the two countries?
A: Economic relations between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of Korea have improved quite well in recent years. According to statistics released by Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, during the last year of 2017, trade between the two countries surpassed $ 12 billion. During this period, Iran's exports to Korea grew by 100% to $8 billion compared with the same period last year. Korea's exports to Iran were $ 4 billion, up 12%. Today, the Islamic Republic of Iran is one of the main suppliers of Korean crude oil. The economic relations between the two countries over the past year have seen several cooperation documents signed in transportation, agriculture, health, industry and energy sectors. The framework agreement between the two countries was signed in August 2017 and provided the ground for the Korea EXIM Bank to grant the Islamic Republic of Iran a credit line of 8 billion Euros. This action has brought about the growing presence of Korean companies to carry out industrial, transportation and health projects in Iran.
Now Korean companies including Samsung, Hyundai, LG, Daewoo, SK, GS are negotiating with Iranian parties to implement new industrial designs. The emergence of small and medium enterprises is considered a new phenomenon in economic relations between the two countries, and we support their presence in the framework of the two countries economic co-operations. Cooperation in the field of technology exchange, electronics, automobile and pharmaceutical industries, and heavy industries such as railroads and shipbuilding are among the other aspects of economic relations between the two countries.
In light of the firm determination of both sides to strengthen economic relations, it is predicted that in the coming years, there will be further increase in trade relations between Iran and Korea.
The vital component of the current economic relations shall be changed from trade to investment. Our economy shall be welded by investment, not glued by trade. Political, social, cultural cooperation shall be even more encouraged.
More efforts need to be poured from both governments in order to make their people more familiar to the other’s culture, history, mode of life, philosophy and so on. Governments’ efforts shall be flanked with all people’s support and participation. Tourism, cultural activities, student exchange could be effective in this regard. The more opportunities to expose ourselves, the closer we will become. This familiarity will fuel the engine of our friendship.
Thanks to its rich oil and gas reserves, Iran has always been considered a very cost-effective market. Considering its industrial and productive potentials in various fields especially in oil, gas, petrochemicals, steel, power and an increase in its exports of manufactured goods, Iran will be changed into a much stronger market.
Cheap energy, highly qualified labor force, ample natural resources and the protection and promotion of foreign investment are advantageous for foreign investors in Iran. With those economic opportunity and privileges, Iran is a very promising destination for the Korean business chaebol or SMEs who intend to be more active in various fields in Iran, like South Pars projects, petrochemical projects, vessels, tankers, pharmaceutical projects, auto industries, iron and steel, power plants and electric projects.
Q: What is the present status and outlook of cultural relations and people to people exchanges?
A: The year 2017 was the 55th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations between Iran and Korea, and named the year for cultural exchanges between the two countries, thence very prolific year for joint cultural activities wherein many cultural and artistic events and programs were held in two countries, for example: Iran Film Festival, at Art House Momo, Seoul, Korea-Iran Friendship Festival, at Milad Tower, Tehran, Korea Film Festival, Tehran, Iranian Artists Forum, Iranian handicraft exhibition entitled, Amazing hands: craft art from Iran, in Seoul, Silla & Persia, A Common Memory; Exhibition, at Iran National Museum, Tehran, Korean Ambassador’s Cup, Taekwondo, Tehran Taekwondo House, Tehran, Korean Knight, Milad Tower, Tehran, Korea Culture Week, Traditional calligraphy and handicraft exhibition and music concert, Milad Tower & Vahdat Hall, Tehran, Iranian traditional dresses shows in Seoul, Iran-Korea Silkroad Cultural Festival, Chehel Sotun Palace, Isfahan, and Korea-Iran Cultural Symphony Performance & K’Drama Screening, Milad Tower, Tehran.
In line with cultural relations, and people to people exchanges, we may also look to joint cooperation in a multitude of fields including promoting tourism and particularly Halal tourism, student exchanges, research trips, organizing sport competitions, encouraging artists to be in touch with one another and stage performances in different cities, exchange of movies and TV series, that could inter alia enable peoples of the two countries to get more acquainted with each other’s customs and traditions.
Q: Who is the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran? Please introduce him in detail.
A: Dr. Hassan Rouhani was born on 12 November 1948 in Sorkhe (Semnan province), Lawyer, Muslim cleric, Representative of the Supreme Leader to the Supreme National Security Council, Member of the Assembly of Experts, head of the Political and Social Committee of the Assembly of Experts, President of the Center for Strategic Research. He had been elected the President of the nation from 2013 to 2017. In May 2017, Rouhani was re-elected as President with 23.6 million votes and was sworn in on August 5th 2017. He vowed that should he be elected he would uphold a "civil rights charter", restore the economy and improve relations with other countries especially Western nations. Undoubtedly, the most significant achievement during his entire tenure of office so far has been Iran Nuclear Deal, known as JCPOA, an international agreement on the nuclear program of Iran reached in Vienna on 14 July 2015 between Iran, the P5+1. Further details of his resume follow:
Ph.D. Constitutional Law, Glasgow Caledonian University, UK
(Thesis entitled: The Flexibility of Shariah; Islamic Law)
M. Phil. Law, Glasgow Caledonian University, UK
(Thesis entitled: The Islamic legislative power)
B. A. Judicial Law, University of Tehran
Kharij Fiqh and Usul (Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence); taught by such masters as Late grand Ayatollah Seyed Mohammad Mohaqqeq Damad, Late grand Ayatollah Sheikh Morteza Haeri, and Late grand Ayatollah Seyed Mohammad Reza Golpayegani.
Advanced Studies; taught by such masters as late grand Ayatollah Soltani, Late grand Ayatollah Fazel Lankarani, and Late grand Ayatollah Sheikh Mohammad Shahabadi.
Publications Published about 100 books and scientific papers. Supervised development and writing of more than 700 important strategic studies with policy recommendations in the past 20 years.
1. National Security and Nuclear Diplomacy – October 2011
2. National Security and Economic System of Iran – August 2010
3. Islamic Political Thought; Vol. 1: Conceptual Framework – December 2009
4. Islamic Political Thought; Vol. 2: Foreign Policy – December 2009
5. Islamic Political Thought; Vol. 3: Cultural and Social Issues – December 2009
6. Memoirs of Dr. Hassan Rouhani; Vol. 1: The Islamic Revolution – 2008
7. An Introduction to the History of Shia' Imams – 2012
8. Age of Legal Capacity and Responsibility – October 2012
9. Introduction to Islamic Countries – 2008
10. Islamic Revolution; Roots and Challenges – 1997
11. Fundaments of Political Thoughts of Imam Khomeini – 1999
12. Role of Seminaries in Moral and Political Developments of Society – November 2011
13. National Security and Foreign Policy – to be printed
14. National Security and Environment – to be printed
15. Memoirs of Dr. Hassan Rouhani; Vol. 2: Sacred Defense – to be printed » English
16. The Islamic Legislative Power – 1994
17. The Flexibility of Shariah; Islamic Law – 1996 » Arabic
Q: Please introduce the historical and cultural aspects of Iran.
Founded by Darius 1 in 518 B.C, the Persepolis was the capital of the Achaemenid Empire. It was built on an immense half-artificial, half natural terrace, where the king of kings created an impressive palace complex inspired by Mesopotamian models. The importance and quality of the monumental ruins make it a unique archaeological Site.
Meidan Emam, Isfahan
It is easy to spend an entire day meandering in Meidan Emam, alternating between marveling at jaw-dropping architecture and haggling with business-savvy bazaar keepers. It is no wonder that the city of Isfahan is known as nesfe jahan (half the world). One of the first sites in Iran to be registered with UNESCO in 1979, this square was built by Shah Abbas in the 17th century. One major monument stands on each side of this grand square, and they are all connected by two-story arcades. Imam Mosque has the largest dome in the city, while Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque dazzles visitors with its splendid tile work. Ali Qapu Palace is most notable for its music room, mosaic stairs, and views of the square, and the gate of the Imperial Bazaar will take you through one of the oldest bazaars in the region. At the end of the day, you will truly feel as though you have seen half of the world.
Golestan Palace was more recently included with UNESCO in 2013. Located footsteps from Tehran’s Grand Bazaar, this lavish palace became the Qajar dynasty’s seat of government. The architecture exemplifies this dynasty’s fusion of early Persian design and Western influences. Magnificent pools, green spaces, and mosaic façades are located throughout this complex, and building interiors vary from bright grand halls hanging with ornate chandeliers to dim cozy nooks of mirrored walls and stained glass. The masterpieces of painter Kamal ol-Molk are also housed throughout the buildings and not to be missed. Take advantage of the opportunity to dress up as a Qajar prince or princess and have your picture taken against the spectacular backdrop of authentic Persian architecture.
Bam and its Cultural Landscape
This ancient desert city of the southern Kerman province was registered with UNESCO in 2004. An overview of Bam immediately gives visitors the impression of being in a life-sized sand castle. The most recognized monument, Arg-e Bam, dates back over 2,000 years to the Parthian Empire. This citadel was build out of khesht (sun-dried mud bricks) in the 6th to 4th centuries B.C. and served as the governor’s quarters. Reconstruction of this landmark began after a devastating earthquake nearly flattened this mud brick city, killing over 26,000 people in 2003. Dates, a particularly special export of Bam, flourish especially well thanks to the vast system of qanats (an ancient underground water system) still used today.
Brazilian poet Manuel Bandeira published the poem Vou-me embora pra Pasargada (I’m off to Pasargadae) describing a man who, unsatisfied with his life, talks about escaping to this utopian city. In a remote location some 50 kilometers from Shiraz, it might not presently look like the utopia it may have been in its heyday, but Pasargadae was the first capital of the Achaemenid Empire in the 6th century B.C., founded by Cyrus the Great. Added to UNESCO in 2004, it is also known as the first multicultural empire that respected cultural diversity. Ruins of the palace and citadel remain, but the main feature is the mausoleum of Cyrus the Great, said to have been visited by Alexander the Great himself after destroying Persepolis.
Sheikh Safi al-din Khanegah and Shrine Ensemble in Ardabil
This shrine ensemble located in the northwestern city of Ardabil joined UNESCO in 2010. It is the location of the tomb of Sheikh Safi al-din, a leader of Islamic Sufi mysticism. Constructed between the 16th and 18th centuries, it is a fusion of Sufi tradition and Iranian traditional construction. The route to the shrine consists of seven segments representing the seven stages of Sufi mysticism, and other parts are divided into eight gates, which mirror the eight attitudes. The areas of this shrine have served various purposes over the years including a library, mosque, school, mausolea, and cistern, among others.
Tabriz Historic Bazaar Complex
Tabriz has always been an important commercial center due to its strategic location along the Silk Road. The Bazaar, added to the UNESCO inventory in 2010, is one of the oldest bazaars in the Middle East. An interconnected series of red brick buildings, each part of this complex sells a different product such as gold and jewelry, shoes, or various household items. Perhaps the most notable section, however, is the rug bazaar where those in the business can be seen selling dyed thread, sewing up loose rug ends, and transporting stacks of rugs.