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Iran releases South Korea tanker seized in January

AT SEA - JANUARY 04: (----EDITORIAL USE ONLY – MANDATORY CREDIT - "ISLAMIC REVOLUTIONARY GUARD CORPS / HANDOUT" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS----) A photo shows the South Korean-flagged tanker being escorted by Iran's Revolutionary Guards navy after being seized in the Gulf. The Naval Command of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps announced that it has seized a South Korean-flagged oil tanker. It was stated that the ship going to South Korea from Saudi Arabia's Al Jubail Commercial Sea Port was carrying 7,200 tons of ethanol and was towed to Bandar Abbas Port. ( Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps - Anadolu Agency )
A photo shows the South Korean-flagged tanker being escorted by Iran's Revolutionary Guards navy after being seized in the Gulf, 5 January 2021 [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps /Anadolu Agency]

Iranian authorities released on Friday the South Korean oil tanker seized in January amid a dispute over Iran's $7 billion frozen in Korean banks. The funds were frozen due to sanctions imposed on the Middle Eastern country concerning its nuclear programme, international news agencies reported.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps seized the Hankuk Chemi ship and its multinational crew of 20 sailors in January. South Korea's Foreign Ministry has since confirmed in a statement: "The ship departed safely today (9 April)."

After seizing the ship, Teheran accused the vessel of "repeated infringement of maritime environmental laws," but after it was released, Iran said the ship's history was free of any violations.

A spokesperson for Tehran's Foreign Ministry disclosed that the ship was released "following the completion of investigations" of its misconduct.

Reports divulged that the ship was released after Teheran urged Seoul to release billions of dollars of Iranian assets frozen in South Korea under US sanctions over its nuclear programme.

READ: Iran shipment of 3.5m barrels of oil approaching Syria

Iran was a key oil supplier to resource-poor South Korea until Washington's rules blocked the purchases. Tehran claims to have a total of $7 billion of funds blocked in Seoul.

"The health of the crew and captain are sound. The ship's cargo is also in good condition," the South Korean Foreign Ministry announced.

South Korea, which has not yet released any of the blocked money, confirmed that it would find a way to release as much of the funds as possible.

Meanwhile, Spokesperson of the Iranian Foreign Ministry Saeed Khatibzadeh stated on Friday that South Korean Prime Minister Chung Sye-Kyun is scheduled to visit Iran on 11 and 12 April for Seoul-Tehran Cooperation.

Khatibzadeh expressed that Chung's visit aims to enhance the traditionally friendly relations between Seoul and Tehran and build momentum for a future-oriented development of bilateral ties.

Asia & AmericasIranMiddle EastNewsSouth Korea
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