Following increased pressure from Tehran, Seoul agreed to release a portion of funds that were being held up due to US sanctions; News of the released funds comes after a South Korean oil tanker was seized by the Iranians back in January.
The Iranian regime is increasing in confidence following its new “exchange” with South Korea this week. Back in January, one of Seoul’s oil ships known as Hankuk Chemi was detained by Tehran upon allegations of pollution, claiming that it had zero connection to Iranian funds that had been frozen for some time in South Korea due to US sanctions – funds that Seoul was hesitant to do anything with prior to the new administration entering the White House.
Iranian state news quoted South Korean Ambassador Ryu Jeong-Hyun saying, “The country is ready to take all necessary measures to use all of Iran’s banking assets in South Korea, and there are no ceilings or restrictions in this regard.” Tehran claims the funds are of utmost importance amid the battle against COVID-19. Though, taking an oil tanker and its crew hostage to create leverage doesn’t signal good intentions.
This week, following a meeting between officials from Seoul and Tehran, South Korea agreed to release an initial amount of the frozen funds amounting to nearly $1 billion. However, the funds remaining in South Korea affected by the sanctions total between $7-9 billion – a number that Iran could very well have access to soon.
Iran released the crew of the ship earlier in February with the exception of the captain, which included 19 individuals.