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Korean businesses hasten entry into Iranian market

Korean administrators rushed to Iran over the weekend to resume the Korea-Iran Joint Economic Committee meeting after a decade, with the business delegation hoping to reap economic benefits from the end of U.S. sanctions against Iran.

On Monday, the Korean delegation -- led by Trade Minister Joo Hyung-hwan and accompanied by the leaders of 95 companies and organizations – held two meetings with high-profile Iranian officials and businessmen.

Abdolreza Zorofchian (center), chairman of Iranian steelmaker PKP, signs a memorandum of agreement with POSCO executive vice president Lee Hoo-geun (left) and POSCO E&C executive vice president Kim Dong-chul on Monday in Tehran for a 1.6 million ton-integrated steel mill construction project. (POSCO)
Abdolreza Zorofchian (center), chairman of Iranian steelmaker PKP, signs a memorandum of agreement with POSCO executive vice president Lee Hoo-geun (left) and POSCO E&C executive vice president Kim Dong-chul on Monday in Tehran for a 1.6 million ton-integrated steel mill construction project. (POSCO)

“The committee meeting is particularly important given the fact that the two countries have revived official conversation channels after a decade (since the talks were brought to a halt in 2006),” a Korean Trade Ministry official said.

“The Korea-Iran Business Forum that kicked off Sunday evening is a big step forward for Korean businesses to enter the Iranian market which is full of potential.”

Six subcommittees were established for the joint economic committee meeting to discuss finance and tariffs; industry and trade and investment; energy and mining; construction, infrastructure, shipping and agriculture; health and environment; culture, ICT and e-government.

They discussed plans to build and operate a general hospital and promote tourism with Korea supplying trains and conducting traffic researches.

The Korean delegation to Iran included Korea’s ambassador to Iran, Gyeonggi Governor, chiefs of state-run Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency and Korea Electric Power Corp., alongside deputies of the Korea International Trade Association and the Federation of Korean Industries and others.

During the visit, the Korean delegation offered partnership in social overhead capital projects and industrial base enhancement using information and communication technology. The team sought to take more part in Iran’s $4.9 billion project to create a high-speed railway between Tehran and Isfahan.

Joo pledged Korea’s increase in oil and natural gas imports from Iran, and asked the Iranian government not to withdraw all of its deposits in Korea’s Woori Bank and IBK.

“Korea and Iran should not only focus on short-run outcomes like temporary increase in trade volumes. Instead, we really want to build a genuine, long-term partnership towards shared prosperity through comprehensive cooperation in social and cultural, as well as economic domains,” Joo said at the Korea-Iran Forum held in Tehran on Sunday evening. 

Joo’s Iranian counterparts, including Central Bank of Iran Governor Valiollah Seif and Minister of Economic Affairs and Finance Ali Tayebnia, called for Korea’s participation in various projects mixed with delicately designed financing programs.

Korea will support the Iranian government’s development projects using the economic development cooperation fund, Korea International Cooperation Agency grant and knowledge sharing programs.

Businessmen, including representatives of GS, Samsung Electronics and Daewoo International, POSCO and many others, made swift moves.

POSCO on Monday signed a memorandum of agreement with Iran’s Pars Kohan Diarparsian Steel to build an integrated steel mill with a 1.6 million ton capacity, mixing its signature FINEX technology, and Compact Endless cast and rolling mill procedure. The company will also chip in 8 percent of the total $1.6 billion-budget.

State-run utility giant KEPCO and two POSCO arms -- POSCO Energy and POSCO E&C -- signed a memorandum of agreement with the PKP to build a 500 megawatt-power plant using the gas emitted from the steelmaking process. The companies also agreed to create a seawater desalination facility there.

KEPCO signed two additional MOUs. One is with the Iranian firm Turbotec in collaboration with coating technology for gas turbine operation. The other is to have the KEPCO affiliate International Nuclear Graduate School train nuclear energy experts from Iran.

By Bae Ji-sook (baejisook@heraldcorp.com)
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