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SEOUL, May 28 (Yonhap) -- South Korea will this week send to Iran US$500,000 worth of medicine used to treat a hereditary disease, the foreign ministry said Thursday, in the first such humanitarian exports to the country since the United States tightened anti-Tehran sanctions last year.
The medicine to treat Gaucher's disease will be sent by air on Friday. The ministry also expects another batch of exports, such as medicine and medical equipment, worth $2 million in total to be shipped to the Middle Eastern country next month.
The planned shipments came after the U.S. gave the green light to the humanitarian exports in April based on its General License No. 8 -- a mechanism to authorize certain humanitarian transactions with Iran even if they involve Iran's central bank, which is subject to U.S. sanctions.
"The South Korean government will continue consultations with the U.S. and Iran over ways to expand trade, which currently focuses on medicine and medical equipment, to food and agricultural products," the ministry said in a press release.
Calls for the resumption of humanitarian trade with Iran have been rising as Tehran has had difficulty securing medical items and other supplies critical to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic due to U.S. sanctions.
The license export program would help meet Iran's humanitarian needs, but subjects companies and related financial institutions to "enhanced due diligence" to ensure the exports will go to Iranians in need and will not be diverted for other purposes.
Apart from the license program, South Korea is also pushing for the Korean Humanitarian Trade Arrangement, which uses an Iranian bank free from U.S. sanctions -- such as the Middle East Bank -- to facilitate humanitarian transactions with the Islamic republic.
Korea is also exploring ways to use the Swiss Humanitarian Trade Arrangement, a payment method designed to facilitate Swiss companies' sales of food and medicine to Iran, to carry out its transactions with Iran.
Amid tensions between the U.S. and Iran, Seoul has faced a tough balancing act in trying to maintain both the long-standing security alliance with Washington and its economic partnership with Tehran.
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