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Iran Seeks S. Korea-Made COVID-19 Diagnostic Kits amid US Sanctions

Written: 2020-03-23 15:38:17Updated: 2020-03-23 17:06:34

Iran Seeks S. Korea-Made COVID-19 Diagnostic Kits amid US Sanctions

Photo : KBS News

Anchor: Iran is attempting to order diagnostic test kits from South Korea amid a sharp growth in the number of COVID-19 cases in the country. However, U.S. sanctions on Iran are impeding any potential provision of the much-needed kits.
Moon Gwang-lip has more. 

Report: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani sent a letter to President Moon Jae-in via the South Korean Foreign Ministry earlier this month, seeking Seoul’s assistance regarding medical and quarantine supplies. 

Along with the letter was a list detailing specific South Korea-made goods the country needs, including three-point-two million COVID-19 diagnostic test kits. 

Around 100 deaths from the contagious disease are being reported in Iran every day, but the country is struggling to diagnose and treat cases due to a lack of test kits. 

[Sound bite: Deputy head of Iranian Mission to S. Korea Ali Piri (Iranian/Mar. 18)]
"At this sensitive crisis situation, the South Korean government can provide us with artificial respirators and other necessary medicine and medical equipment. Also, masks, hazmat suits, coronavirus diagnostic kits, automated external defibrillators(AED), ultrasound devices as well as portable x-ray equipment can help us overcome the epidemic. These items are either produced in South Korea or are available for our use in South Korea. In these areas, the South Korean government can help Iran.”  

So far, 17 countries have ordered South Korean diagnostic kits and Seoul has been providing them with no looming domestic shortage. 

Iran, however, is facing difficulty. Payment must be made through an account established in a South Korean bank, but due to the nuclear-related economic sanctions the U.S. resumed against Iran in 2018, such transactions via a foreign institution have been restricted.

[Sound bite: Deputy head of Iranian Mission to S. Korea Ali Piri (Iranian/Mar. 18)]
“Iran should be able to use our capital in the Bank of Korea to control the situation. We have payments received for our sales of gas and crude oil to South Korea before the U.S.' unilateral sanctions on our Bank of Korea account. We are in talks with the South Korean government to get medical equipment and medicine to fight the coronavirus outbreak and help our citizens, and we would like to be able to use these assets."     

Seoul’s foreign ministry is discussing with Washington the possibility of allowing coronavirus-related supplies to be sent to Iran in the form of humanitarian trade, but no concrete agreement has been made yet. 

South Korean banks also remain cautious about transactions with Iran. 

[Sound bite: an official - a local commercial bank (Korean)] 
“Even if discussions with the foreign ministry on related matters are made, we will have to examine legal and other issues again before taking any steps.”  

Tehran has repeatedly called for the provision of quarantine items through a humanitarian channel, saying it will also help curb the global spread of COVID-19. 
Moon Gwang-lip, KBS World Radio News.

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