Park to sit with Iran’s Khamenei, discuss relations

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Park to sit with Iran’s Khamenei, discuss relations

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President Park Geun-hye boards the presidential plane for her four-day trip to Iran on Sunday. [NEWSIS]

President Park Geun-hye kicked off her four-day trip to Tehran on Sunday and is scheduled to meet with Iranian supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on Monday to discuss how to improve bilateral ties.

This marks the first state visit of a South Korean president to Iran since the two countries launched diplomatic ties in 1962.

Park is set to hold a summit on Monday morning with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. The two leaders are expected to hold a joint press conference after their summit and hold an official luncheon.

Afterward, Park will head into talks with Khamenei, who has held the position of supreme leader since 1989 and who controls Iran’s judiciary branch, legislature, military and state media.

Park told a local newspaper, Iran Daily, in a written interview published Sunday that she has “great interest” in watching what kind of implications the Iranian nuclear deal will have on the solving of the North Korean nuclear issue.

Last year, a historic nuclear deal was struck on July 14 between Iran and six world powers - the United States, the United Kingdom, France, China, Russia and Germany - resulting in the lifting of stiff economic sanctions on Tehran.

“I think it is very meaningful that the Iranian nuclear issue was resolved through negotiations between Iran and the countries concerned,” said Park, adding that she hoped the Iranian nuclear deal “will be a milestone not only in bringing about peace and stability in the Middle East, but also bolstering international nonproliferation.”

She also said that the North Korean government’s nuclear development is a threat to peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and “will not be tolerated.”

She added in the interview, “I hope our two nations will together be able to write new chapters in history for mutually beneficial cooperative ties, not only in economic terms but also in more diverse fields.”

In 2011, before the sanctions, bilateral trade between the two countries totaled some $17.4 billion, which dropped to $6.1 billion in 2015 after a number of cooperative economic projects, already underway in Iran, were suspended.

Park said she hoped for in-depth consultations “in areas where there is a potential for substantive cooperation so that a new framework for economic cooperation between our two countries will be forged.”

Spending some 50 hours in the country in a trip than spans through Wednesday, Park will attend a business forum to propose expanding economic cooperation and engage in cultural exchanges between the two countries.

Park will be accompanied by Korea’s largest-ever economic delegation, comprising 236 executives in steel, construction, oil, IT, finance and medicine, including SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won, Posco Chairman Kwon Oh-joon, KT Chairman Hwang Chang-gyu, Hanjin Group Chairman Cho Yang-ho and Kepco CEO Cho Hwan-eik.

The delegation will represent 146 small and medium enterprises, 38 large conglomerates and 52 economic agencies, public organizations and hospitals.

They will work toward building a network between Korean and Iranian businesses and holding one-on-one meetings.

BY SARAH KIM, SHIN YONG-HO [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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