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Korea Transfers Iran’s Frozen Funds to Third Country

Korea has confirmed the transfer of the $6 billion Iranian fund that was frozen in Korea due to U.S. sanctions to a third country.
Seoul’s Foreign Ministry on Tuesday said the frozen fund was transferred to Qatar after being converted into euros in Switzerland.
Some $6 billion Iranian assets that had been frozen at the Industrial Bank of Korea and Woori Bank since 2019 will be used for non-sanctioned goods.

“Following the sanctions against Iran, our government has paid the UN contribution through the fund at the request of the Iranian government and has provided necessary humanitarian aid to the people of Iran, including medical supplies,” the government said in a statement.

“The government has clearly understood that the fund belonged to the people of Iran and had continuously engaged in diplomatic communication and discussion with related countries to solve the situation,” the Foreign Ministry said.

It also thanked Qatar and Switzerland for their cooperation.

“We hope that through the transfer of the frozen fund, [Korea and Qatar] will develop a relationship further in the future,” it added.

Unblocking the funds was part of an agreement between the United States and Iran to free Americans detained in Iran in exchange for jailed Iranians.

The $6 billion was a payment for Korea’s import of Iranian oil. However, it was frozen when former President Donald Trump’s administration withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018 and imposed sanctions on Iran’s central bank.

“Fortunately, Iran’s frozen assets in South Korea were released, and God willing, today the assets will start to be fully controlled by the government and the nation,” Iran’s Foreign Minister Nasser Kanaani said Monday.

Iran President Ebrahim Raisi, who is in New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly, told reporters that releasing the American detainees is just the beginning of other “humanitarian actions.”

U.S. President Joe Biden thanked the countries that participated in the release of the five Americans held captive in Tehran.

“I am grateful to our partners at home and abroad for their tireless efforts to help us achieve this outcome, including the Governments of Qatar, Oman, Switzerland, and South Korea,” Biden said Monday in a statement.

With the waiver on the frozen assets, trade that had been strained between the two countries is likely to resume.

According to the Korea International Trade Association, Korea’s exports to Iran had been steadily growing since 2000 when they first exceeded $1 billion. 

In 2012, they reached as high as $6.2 billion. However, after the U.S. sanctions, Korean exports to the Middle East country in 2019 dramatically shrank to $282 million. In 2020, they dropped below $200 million.

Despite a 10.1 percent increase, Korea’s exports to Iran last year amounted to $195 million.

Before the sanctions, Korea was the biggest importer of Iranian crude oil after China. 

In 2011, Korea’s imports amounted to $11.3 billion. However, in 2019, it fell to $2.1 billion, and in 2020, it further dropped to $8.6 million.

Source: Korea Joongang Daily



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