Korea releases $6 bn of Iran’s frozen assets after 4 years under sanctions

2023.09.20 10:47:01 | 2023.09.20 14:29:07

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The South Korean government has returned $6 billion to Iran, which was frozen in local banks due to financial sanctions against Iran. The frozen funds in Korea were the largest among Iran’s overseas assets.

The Ministry of Economy and Finance said Tuesday that Iran’s assets have recently been transferred to a third country under close cooperation between relevant countries.

Since May 2019, Iran had about $6 billion locked in accounts of the country’s central bank at Korea’s Woori Bank and Industrial Bank of Korea (IBK) due to the U.S. sanctions. Iran had used the accounts to receive payments for oil and to pay for goods imported from Korea.

According to the finance ministry, Iran intends to use the funds now transferred to Qatar for humanitarian purposes, similar to how they were used in Korea, including purchasing food and medicines.

“We hope that the relationship between Korea and Iran will further develop as a result of this transfer of frozen funds,” it said.

The transfer of funds followed an agreement reached between the U.S. and Iran to release American detainees held in Iran in exchange for lifting financial sanctions on Iran’s assets held overseas, including in Korea, Iraq, and Europe.

The U.S. and Iran reached the agreement earlier last month after more than a year of indirect negotiations.

Although the relevant funds have been transferred to Iran, the dispute surrounding them is likely to continue, as the Iranian government is expected to demand interest payments from the Korean government for their frozen assets.

Iran’s Tasnim News Agency reported Saturday that the Iranian government has decided to take measures to ask for compensation from Korea concerning the losses incurred due to years of freezing.

By Hong Hae-jin and Chang Iou-chung

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