Anchor: South Korea's foreign minister has urged Iran to swiftly release a South Korean oil tanker and its captain seized by Tehran in early January. In response, Iran’s minister of foreign affairs called for a resolution to the country’s frozen funds stuck in South Korean banks.
Park Jong-hong has the details.
Report: Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong has urged his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif to swiftly release a South Korean oil tanker and its captain seized by Tehran in early January.
Seoul’s Foreign Ministry said the two top diplomats on Wednesday also exchanged views on how to develop relations between the two nations during the 35-minute call.
Minister Zarif requested an early resolution to the issue of Iranian funds held in South Korea, to which Minister Chung explained that the Seoul government is making its utmost and sincere efforts.
Zarif reportedly said that Iran-South Korea relations have been affected by the "illegal measures" of the South Korean banks holding the funds.
In addition, the two sides reportedly discussed transferring part of the money to Switzerland, using the Swiss Humanitarian Trade Arrangement(SHTA).
The SHTA seeks to ensure that Swiss-based exporters and trading companies in the food, pharmaceutical and medical sectors have a secure payment channel with a Swiss bank, through which payments for their exports to Iran are guaranteed.
In a related development, Iran's top banker has threatened legal action by the country if South Korea fails to return the funds held by its banks.
According to Iranian state news agency IRNA, Iran's Central Bank Governor Abdolnaser Hemmati told reporters on Wednesday that Iran will receive one billion U.S. dollars from South Korea as the first tranche of some seven billion dollars in frozen assets that Seoul has agreed to release.
The governor said that the funds belong to the Central Bank of Iran and it has the right to take legal action, adding the bank issued a payment order and will move according to international law if South Korea fails to pay.
The remarks come as the South Korean government said that the actual release of the funds will be carried out through consultation with the United States.
Park Jong-hong, KBS World Radio News.