Iran – Korea: So far, so close

Seoul Park in the Iranian capital Tehran

Seoul Park in the Iranian capital Tehran. The park was established on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the relations between Korea and Iran

By Alireza Bahrami

TEHRAN: In the 1960s and 1970s, Iran and Korea were two countries that were both seeking to make progress.

Initially, Iran made more rapid progress. But afterwards, South Korea moved faster. During these years, the two countries usually had good relations. But over the past few months, the political and economic challenges of Iran and the United States have also damaged Iran-Korea relations.

About 45 years ago, the mayors of Tehran and Seoul signed an agreement under which a street in Seoul was named after Tehran and a street in Tehran was named after Seoul.

Tehran Street in Seoul

Tehran Street in the Korean capital Seoul

Tehran Street in the South Korean capital, four kilometers long, is now one of the most important commercial and administrative centers in Seoul. Over the past few decades, towers have been built on this street as a sign of South Korea’s economic progress.

Seoul Street in Tehran, three kilometers long, is one of the largest streets dedicated to sports clubs in Iran, the building of the National Olympic Committee of Iran and the venue of Tehran International Exhibitions.

At one time, Tehran’s large amusement park was next to several large hotels on this street, which was later moved out of the city.

Seoul Street in the Korean capital Seoul

Seoul Street in the Iranian capital Tehran

About 20 years ago, a park called Seoul Park was established near this street. The park, in which special trees have been planted, was established on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the relations between the two countries, on the initiative of the mayor of Tehran.

A large shopping center was established near the South Korean embassy in Tehran, called “Seoul”, where various shops and cafés are located.

South Korea is known in the minds of the Iranian people for sports competitions between athletes from the two countries. Korean brands also had a successful presence in the automotive and electronics market.

A few years ago, I wrote an article in the same media about Jomhouri (Republic) Street in Tehran, which was full of Samsung and LG billboards in shops selling Samsung and LG TVs. Korean cars Hyundai and KIA were moving on the street and passers-by were holding Samsung mobile phones.

A few months ago, when Korean brands left the Iranian market due to US economic sanctions, Chinese and Iranian brands replaced them.

The billboards on that street all changed and there was no trace of the sale of Korean goods. Now that it is being said that President Trump’s sanctions may be lifted, it is difficult for Korean brands to return to the market.

However, a group of young Iranians are still fans of Korean bands and watch Korean TV series. Some of them prefer South Korea to Europe and America for their university education. However, in the Iranian media, the Korean government is accused of seizing $7 billion in Iranian assets.

It cannot be said that the mentality of the Iranian people toward South Korea has not been negative at all, and it cannot be said that this is completely negative because where political diplomacy comes to a standstill, cultural diplomacy works.

However, a Persian proverb says, it is always easier to destroy than to create.

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