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Tehran Street, Seoul Street stand as symbols of friendship

Tehran Street in southern Seoul and Seoul Street in Iran's capital are prominent symbols of the special bond that has withstood the test of time and can pave the way for a brighter future, observers said Tuesday.

The 4-kilometer-long Tehran Street, which runs through the capital's affluent Gangnam district from east to west, is considered one of the richest areas in the country with countless high-rises flanking the boulevard that is used by an endless stream of cars and pedestrians every day.

Four decades ago, the area was mostly empty space crisscrossed with gravel roads and farmland.

In 1977, the then-Mayor of Tehran Gholamreza Nikpay offered his counterpart Koo Ja-choon to exchange names for streets in their capital cities. Nikpay was visiting South Korea to sign a sisterhood relations pact.

The two countries have maintained good relations since they established diplomatic ties in 1962. Iran was the only oil-producing country that supplied the critical resource to South Korea during the 1973 oil crisis.

In the 1970s, some 200,000 South Koreans earned foreign currency in Iran, working at numerous construction sites.

The two countries' relations cooled after the 1979 Iranian Revolution.

In the 1980s, residents in the Gangnam district asked the city government to change the name of the 10-lane Tehran Street as the Middle Eastern country became isolated from the international community.

Still, the name survived and is now synonymous as one of the main hubs of international finance in South Korea and a magnet for Seoul's countless venture firms.

The area first became the heart of the IT industry when leading IT firms started to settle in the area in the 1990s. It was a time when the country was hit by a boom of the new technology.

The research lab of Ahn Cheol-soo, an entrepreneur-turned-politician who currently co-leads the minor opposition People's Party; the headquarters of Thrunet, which was one of the largest high-speed internet service providers in the country; and former South Korean portal Netian were all located on Tehran Street. Such a concentration of IT firms caused the neighborhood to be dubbed South Korea's Silicon Valley.

The district that surrounds the business quarter is also renowned for apartments that fetch top prices.

With Grand Intercontinental Seoul Parnas, the Korea World Trade Center and the Convention and Exhibition Center (COEX), as well as Hyundai Department Store, the area is literally one of the busiest and richest regions in South Korea. The street also boasts the Seoul office of steel giant POSCO.

In 2000, the area faced a crisis with the vacancy rate soaring up to 20 percent.

However, with the offices of an affiliate belonging to Samsung Group, the country's largest family run conglomerate, at the west end and firms under Hyundai Motor Group towards the east, as well as other institutes supporting start-up businesses moving in, the vacancy rate recently shrank to below 10 percent.

Tehran Street now aims to pull off another great leap forward with the growth resurgence of venture companies.

The commercial rent price per 1 square-meter on the street is 21,700 won ($18) as of January, the fourth highest in the city, according to the Korea Appraisal Board. The Jongno district in central Seoul, Myeongdong and Gangnam Boulevard led the list.

Posco Art Museum, which features Frank Stella's "Amabel" flowering structure and works by Korean-born American media artist Paik Nam-june, and LG Arts Center also attract tourists to the street.

Tehran Street's counterpart Seoul Street in the Iranian capital also stands as a symbol of the two countries' friendship.

The 3-kilometer-long road, also called Seoul Boulevard, runs in the north part of the capital with four to six lanes.

In 2003, Seoul Park opened in the capital amid the rising popularity of Korean pop culture in the Middle Eastern country.

Then Mayor of Tehran Mohammad-Hassan Malekmadani led the project to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the two countries' amity.

The park is filled with about a hundred pine trees which are uncommon in the Middle East.

A park keeper said the park is enjoyed by ordinary citizens for jogging and is crowded with families on picnics during the weekends.

Sarah, a 30-year-old housewife living in Tehran, said she uses the park to play with her children.

"This is a place that I visit all the time. The visit of the South Korean president to Iran this time made me think of the meaning of this place," she said.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye made a groundbreaking visit to Iran earlier this month, the first such trip by a South Korean president since the establishment of bilateral diplomatic ties in 1962.

Park secured Iran's support for denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula during talks with her Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, in Tehran.

The president and Rouhani observed the signing numerous memorandums of understanding (MOUs) worth up to $45.6 billion.

Seoul hopes the MOUs will pave the way for South Korean companies to eventually win massive infrastructure projects under way in Iran. (Yonhap)