S. Korea, Japan Leaders Mulling Iran Trip

S. Korea, Japan Leaders Mulling Iran Trip  S. Korea, Japan Leaders Mulling Iran Trip

South Korean President Park Geun-hye is considering visiting Iran, an official said on Wednesday, as Iran has emerged as a land of opportunity following the lifting of international sanctions.

Presidential spokesman Jeong Yeon-guk made the statement to reporters, without elaborating on the timeframe for the possible visit, Yonhap reported.

South Korea plans to hold consultations with Iran to work out details of Park's visit, another presidential official said, adding that the plan has been underway since last year.

Park, if the trip is made, would be the first South Korean president ever to visit Tehran.

The move came amid a flurry of diplomatic and economic activities by some countries to strengthen ties with Iran and explore new business opportunities there.

Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Iran last week, becoming the first foreign leader to travel to Tehran following the lifting of sanctions.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is also considering visiting Iran, Japanese media reported, citing Japanese officials.

South Korea is seeking to tap into business opportunities in Iran as the United Nations has lifted most economic sanctions against Iran in a follow-up to a nuclear deal reached with world powers.

South Korean companies are considering participating in such businesses as energy, mineral resources, construction plants and grain export in the Iranian market.

Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se said Iran appreciates that South Korean companies did not leave Iran when sanctions were in place.

In November, Yun visited Iran, becoming the first South Korean top diplomat in 14 years to visit Tehran. Yun met with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

Last year, then minister of land, infrastructure and transport visited Iran.

South Korea and Iran reportedly shared the view that the two sides should strengthen diplomatic and economic ties. The country's commerce minister also plans to make a trip to Tehran next month for a meeting on economic and trade issues.

Park's potential visit could also help facilitate South Korean companies' entry into Iran.

Iran boasts the world's fourth-largest known crude oil deposits and ranks No. 1 in terms of natural gas reserves.

South Korea's exports to Iran reached $4.14 billion in 2014, up 8.3% year-on-year. South Korea's share in Iran's imports, however, fell 0.5 percentage point over the cited period to 7.9%, according to data compiled by the state-run Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency.