Isfahan & Gyeongju: The Story of a Pragmatic Friendship on Both Sides of the Old Continent

The relationship between Iran and the Korean Peninsula is a historical relationship that not only has hundreds of years of history, but can also be continued in mythology.

In the international system, the people-to-people relationship is an ever more important relationship than the relationship between governments, and the relationship between the two peoples of Iran and Korea has always been warm and stable, as has the spirit of this friendship is felt in the epic of Kush-Nama.

In addition to the people-to-people relationship, friendly government relations make the two countries a structure for interaction and cooperation.

Being on the cusp of the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries indicates that Iran and Korea have had a stable and continuing political relationship. Despite the challenges they face, a strong structure has prevented significant damage to relationships during the challenges.

Cities and mayors, as new and increasingly important actors in international relations in the current global system, pursue policies of city diplomacy while strengthening relations between countries, making cities themselves beneficiaries of international relationships.

Isfahan and Gyeongju, as cities that attach great importance to cultural issues and have been the capitals of their countries in the past, have started their relations since 2013, with emphasis on cultural and historical issues, and cooperation culture of the Silk Road has played a central role in relations between Isfahan and Gyeongju.

To date, academic cooperation and participation in cultural events have formed the core of relations between the two cities. Tourism themes can be transformed into a new axis of Isfahan-Gyeongju cooperation.

The first document agreed by the two cities in 2013 was the Declaration of Cooperation on the Silk Road between Gyeongsangbuk-do Province and Isfahan, followed by Friendly cooperation agreement between Gyeongju and Isfahan on the cooperation of the main and focal cities of the Silk Road.

In 2014, the first anniversary of the signing of Declaration of Friendly Cooperation on the Silk Road took place in Isfahan. The two cities have agreed in a memorandum of understanding that Isfahan will participate in the 2015 Gyeongju Silk Road Cultural Festival. In addition, a seminar on scientific exchanges of Persia and the Silla Empire was held. at the University of Isfahan on the theme of historical re-exploration. exchanges of civilization between Persia and Silla.

According to the agreement, the Municipality of Isfahan participated in the 2015 Silk Road Cultural Festival. During this two-month event, in addition to the Iranian pavilion, the traditional arts of Isfahan were continuously presented with the presence of craft artists and using Korean content; During the national day ceremony, Iranian performing arts and music were presented to the local and international audience of this event.

In the following collaboration, Isfahan hosted the 2017 Iran-Korea Silk Road Cultural Festival, and at the Chehel-Sotoon Museum Palace, Korean artists presented their ritual arts to the Iranian public. In this event, which can be considered the biggest cultural event of a foreign country in Isfahan, more than 200 Korean artists told the epic of Kush-Nama with their roles.

Gyeongju as a city has valuable architecture represented in its city-built structural forms such as temples, palaces, kings’ tombs, observatories, etc. It is a museum city, one of the most historic cities in Korea, and has been the capital of the Kingdom of Silla for over a thousand years.

Isfahan & Gyeongju: The Story of a Pragmatic Friendship on Both Sides of the Old Continent

As mentioned, the mythological root of the relationship between the two nations lay in the epic of Kush-Nama and their trade relationship through the Sea Silk Road has been told in this literary masterpiece. Thus, addressing the stories of Kush-Nama has an important place in the cultural programs of Iran and Korea.

Relations between Isfahan and Gyeongju during the COVID-19 pandemic have not only been weakened but also strengthened. The two municipalities have been in contact since the start of the crisis, continued an exchange of experiences on the role of urban management in containing the pandemic. The mayors also met in a videoconference meeting on April 14, announcing that the parties were ready to expand relations and strengthen the role of the two cities in improving relations between the two countries, highlighting tourism cooperation. as an example of a significant pivot to future cooperation. The two cities issued a joint statement, included in the report.

While the challenges facing the two governments can also affect the relationship of cities, the logic of city diplomacy is based on the fact that cities can bring governments together. Regarding relations between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of Korea, the influence of third-party actors is the biggest obstacle to deepening the relationship. Isfahan and Gyeongju can convey the message that the strengthening of cooperation between the two countries should depend solely on the will of the parties and that no external factor can cause it gaps and the means necessary to achieve cooperation, such as as transport, culture and banking communications.

JOINT STATEMENT OF THE MAYORS OF ISFAHAN AND GYEONGJU

TO STRENGTHEN COOPERATION AND FRIENDSHIP

Regarding the historical relations between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of Korea and also on the basis of the Friendship Agreement between Isfahan and Gyeongju signed in 2013, His Excellency Mr. Ghodratollah Norouzi the Mayor of Isfahan and His Excellency Mr. Joo Nak-young spoke via a videoconference meeting on April 14, 2021.

Highlighting the expansion of bilateral relations and following issues of mutual interest in a pragmatic atmosphere to achieve a road map, the two sides affirmed that Isfahan and Gyeongju can take measures to promote relations between the two countries.

As the former capitals of their countries, Isfahan and Gyeongju, respectively of West and East Asia, have elucidated their cooperation strategy for cultural cooperation on the Silk Road, highlighting the ’emphasizing mythological commonalities and realizing intercultural interactions within the framework of executive projects in order to be a source of model inspiration for other cities.

At the end, the two sides welcomed each other to prepare a tourism cooperation protocol and sign, if agreed, in order to realize the common interests in the development of tourism which is a high priority for Isfahan and Gyeongju.

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