Asan in the News

[Arirang TV]  2016-05-01

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“Korea-Iran relations then, now and expectations for the future”

Given that it’s not only the first time President Park visits Iran, but the first EVER trip by a South Korean leader since Seoul-Tehran relations were established 54 years ago, there are high expectations a new chapter in bilateral ties will open.

Generally speaking, the two countries had a good relationship in their early years, even creating a Seoul street in Tehran, and a Tehran street, or Teheran valley in Seoul, some six-and-a-half-thousand kilometers apart.

After the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the friendship deteriorated, and would not be restored until decades later, as Seoul supported the UN Security Council’s efforts to terminate Tehran’s nuclear program.

But, since the landmark nuclear deal last year lifted international sanctions off Iran, Seoul was one of the first to revive relations, quickly sending its foreign minister to Tehran, the first visit of its kind in 14 years.

But there are concerns about trying too hard.

Jang Ji-hyang (Research Fellow, the Asan Institute for Policy Studies)

“We have our traditional old friends and allies in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, UAE and Israel as well, and they are worrying about the emergence of Iran in the international world.”

Also, there’s the fact that North Korea and Iran have been very close, not to mention their cooperation in developing nuclear material.

“I just hope, let us give a chance to those young supporters of reformist factions, so that they can have bigger voice against those hardliner clerics who wanted to keep their connections with North Korea.”

It remains to be seen whether South Korea and Iran can enjoy a good partnership in the years to come, but Seoul’s ambassador to Iran suggests the two build a “multi-faceted” relationship, boosting not only economic ties, but also political, cultural and many more fields of cooperation.


About Experts

Jang Ji-Hyang
Jang Ji-Hyang

Center for Regional Studies

Dr. JANG Ji-Hyang is a senior fellow and director of the Center for Middle East and North Africa at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies. Dr. Jang served as a policy advisor on Middle East issues to South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2012-2018). Previously, Dr. Jang taught comparative and Middle East politics at Seoul National University, Yonsei University, Ewha Woman’s University, and the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies. Her research interests include political economy of the Middle East and North Africa, political Islam, comparative democratization, terrorism, and state-building. Dr. Jang is the author of numerous books and articles, including The Arab Spring: Will It Lead to Democratic Transitions?(with Clement M. Henry (eds.), Palgrave Macmillan 2013), “Disaggregated ISIS and the New Normal of Terrorism” (Asan Issue Brief 2016), “Islamic Fundamentalism” (International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences 2008), and a Korean translation of Fawaz Gerges’ Journey of the Jihadist: Inside Muslim Militancy (Asan Institute 2011). Dr. Jang received a B.A. in Turkish studies and M.A. in political science from the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies and her Ph.D. in political science from the University of Texas at Austin.