The Forum for Partners in Iran's Marketplace

June 2021, No. 97

Trade & Business

South Korean PM Visits Iran
to Help Revive Nuclear Deal

Chung Says Irans Money Should Be Returned

South Korean Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun arrived in Iran (April 12) to help restore a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers and free up $7 billion in Iranian funds trapped in South Korea.

Chung is the first South Korean prime minister to visit Iran in 44 years amid icy relations between the two countries due to Irans military cooperation with North Korea.

Tension rose after Iran seized a South Korean ship and its sailors in the Strait of Hormuz in January, accusing them of polluting the waters, and demanded South Korea release $7 billion in assets frozen in South Korean banks under US sanctions.

Chungs trip came days after Iran released the tanker and its captain, the last member of its 20-strong crew, with South Korea vowing to help secure the release of the funds.

The Biden administration is trying to find a way to rejoin the accord and lift the sanctions at talks in Vienna with Iran, mediated by European signatories. Seoul officials have said they only can release the Iranian billions with a nod from Washington.

The JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) negotiations are being pursued constructively and it seems ... development of ties and problem resolving are necessary for the wellbeing and advancement of both nations, Chung told a joint news conference.

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said that the prime ministers three-day visit would focus on bilateral issues, including illegal restrictions placed in the way of access to resources of the Central Bank of Iran in South Korea.

South Koreas Yonhap news agency reported earlier that the prime minister was visiting Iran for bilateral talks amid lingering tensions over Tehrans call to unlock its funds frozen in Seoul under US sanctions.

On his agenda of talks in Tehran was meetings with Irans President Hassan Rouhani, First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri, Parliament Speaker Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf and Ali Larijani, who is an advisor to Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei.

Iranian authorities have said on several occasions that they expect South Korea to do more on the release of nearly $8.5 billion blocked illegally in two South Korean banks under the pretext of US sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

Irans Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the measure taken by South Korean banks to freeze the assets for fear of the sanctions constitute the main factor that prevents further expansion of relations between the two countries.

Following the same line, Prime Minister Chung affirmed that the country should quickly return billions of dollars of frozen money to Iran as tensions between the two countries ease.

I have said before that this money is Irans money and should be returned to its owner, Chung said in Tehran on Monday.

Its best to find a way and return it quickly, he told reporters traveling with him.

Chung stressed that the release of the frozen funds was in South Koreas best interests and that efforts needed to be made to overcome the various constraints that are preventing it from happening, according to Yonhap news agency.


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  June 2021
No. 97