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Iran nuke deal to energize trade with Korea

Finalizing the recently agreed Iranian nuclear deal will pave the way for international cooperation, security and prosperity, Iran’s top envoy to Korea stressed last week.

Iranian Ambassador Hassan Taherian underscored that the nuclear deal framework, which came out of negotiations between U.S., U.K., Russia, France, China, Germany, European Union and Iran from March 26 to April 2, was “definitely a successful achievement.”

However, more political consensus is required to seal the final comprehensive agreement, due late June, that would ensure that Iran cannot produce a nuclear weapon, according to the ambassador.

In a statement released in Lausanne, Switzerland, Iran agreed to reduce, redesign and convert its nuclear facilities in exchange for lifting of all sanctions on its international banking, petrochemical, oil and gas, telecommunications and automobile industries.

Iran agreed to give the International Atomic Energy Agency access to all of its nuclear facilities for monitoring and inspection.

“The agreement addressed both parties’ concerns. We are in a process of give and take. Though not a perfect deal, it was the most practical agreement possible,” Taherian said in a lecture at the Asia Society in Lotte Hotel on Tuesday.

“The objective of the negotiation is to guarantee Iran’s peaceful use of nuclear energy and lifting all sanctions. We will radically restrict the size and scope of our nuclear program for the next 10 to 15 years.”

Taherian, who started his ambassadorship in Korea in July last year, emphasized that Iran accepted “the highest level of transparency and verification in the history of nuclear proliferation” during negotiations.

He was previously posted to Seoul as a diplomat from 1980 to 1985, as well as Pyongyang as an ambassador from 1992 to 1993.

Iran has long professed its right to develop nuclear technology for industrial and research purposes, with no aim of developing an arsenal.

Under the deal, Iran will be allowed to keep its current stockpile of enriched materials for producing nuclear fuel or swapping with uranium in the international markets.

International response has been largely positive. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, “A comprehensive, negotiated solution to the Iranian nuclear issue will contribute to peace and stability in the region.”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani welcomed the development on Twitter, saying that the agreement would promote Iran’s interaction with the world and the world’s respect for Iran.

Despite the optimistic outlook from Iran, analysts have pointed out that denuclearizing North Korea will be much more difficult, as the situation is starkly different.

One difference is that Pyongyang attaches far greater importance to the nuclear program, as it sees nuclear armament as a means to shield itself from regime change through external forces.

Tehran did not regard nuclear armament as an existential issue, instead pursuing nuclear brinksmanship as a “status matter” in the region to regain national glory, Korean diplomat Chun Yung-woo told the Asan Institute for Policy Studies.

In 2010, the U.S. Congress adopted sanctions that forced domestic companies to stop doing business with Iran. Other allies, including Korea, Japan, Australia, United Arab Emirates and the European Union, joined the league. The EU and Asian countries, including Korea and Japan, also joined the banking restrictions.

Tehran was more vulnerable to sanctions as its economy is more globally integrated and its society is more open and pluralistic, contrary to the isolated and reclusive North Korea, experts have pointed out.

Clinching the comprehensive agreement will lure more foreign investment and trade with Iran, Taherian underscored, adding that the country eased investment laws and developed free economic zones.

“Iran and Korea have maintained relatively friendly relations since establishing diplomatic relations in 1952. The Tehran Street in Seoul’s Gangnam area and the Seoul Street north of Tehran symbolize our friendship,” he said.

Both countries exchanged several high-level meetings in recent years, including Foreign Ministers who met in New York last year on the sideline of the U.N. General Assembly. The Iranian Parliamentary Friendship Group will come to Seoul in early June.

The ambassador welcomed Korean investment in engineering, infrastructure and construction in Iran. Korea companies, which have a reliable reputation in Iran, have shown renewed interest in trade and investment, he pointed out.

Bilateral trade volume was $9 billion last year, and over 2,000 medium-sized Korean companies have trade ties with Iran at present.

By Joel Lee  (
Korea Herald Youtube