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(LEAD) Iran's frozen funds in S. Korea back in spotlight as Tehran seizes ship

All News 16:40 January 05, 2021

(ATTN: CORRECTS figures in first 4 paras; CHANGES headline; TRIMS)

SEOUL, Jan. 5 (Yonhap) -- Iran's frozen funds in South Korea are back in the spotlight as tensions rose between Seoul and Tehran after Iran seized a South Korean-flagged tanker.

Seoul demanded Teheran immediately release the tanker, which was seized by Iran's Revolutionary Guards in Persian Gulf waters this week, in an apparent dispute over the Iranian funds that have been held under U.S. sanctions over Tehran's nuclear program.

As of September last year, about 3 trillion won (US$2.8 billion) worth of Iranian money was held at the Bank of Korea.

Separately, about 4.6 trillion won worth of Iranian oil money was believed to be frozen at two South Korean banks -- the Industrial Bank of Korea and Woori Bank. The banks would not release figures because such data is confidential.

Hossein Tanhaee, head of the Iran-South Korea Joint Chamber of Commerce, reportedly said last year that the amount of Iran's frozen funds in South Korea is between $6.5 billion and $9 billion.

The U.S. withdrew from Iran's landmark 2015 nuclear deal with major powers and reimposed sanctions against Tehran in 2018.

Tensions also rose as Iran reportedly began enriching uranium up to 20 percent at an underground facility in a step that moved farther away from the 2015 nuclear deal.

This CCTV image shows the moment the South Korean-flagged oil tanker MT Hankuk Chem was captured by an Iranian Revolutionary Guards speedboat (in the red circle) in the Persian Gulf's Strait of Hormuz on Jan. 4, 2021, over the ship's alleged oil pollution. The ship's operator denied the allegations. (Yonhap)


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