Iran MP says unfreezing funds may help release of South Korean ship

Any move by South Korea towards releasing $7bn in frozen Iranian funds might help encourage the Iranian judiciary to resolve the seizure of South Korean-flagged chemical tanker Hankuk Chemi (IMO 9232369), which, along with its crew, has been held for alleged environmental pollution, senior Iranian parliamentary member Mojtaba Zolnour said on Friday January 29th.

It was the first Iranian statement to link the frozen funds to the ship’s arrest. Iran has until now insisted that the two matters were unrelated and that the vessel had only been arrested for technical reasons, rather than as a bargaining counter. Iran now seems to be saying, without admitting its motives in seizing the vessel in the first place, that the two situations could be linked.

Earlier in January South Korea’s vice foreign minister held talks in Tehran on the release of the vessel, which Iran’s Revolutionary Guards seized near the Strait of Hormuz on January 4th.

“Although the Korean ship’s seizure was only due to environmental pollution…, Korean action in expediting the return of Iran’s blocked funds may affect the judiciary’s decision in resolving the ship’s seizure,” Zolnour said, according to state news agency IRNA.

Anything Zolnour says on such matters is significant because he is chairman of the Iranian parliament’s national security committee. He was speaking in a virtual meeting with the head of South Korean parliament’s foreign affairs and unification committee. 2000-built, South Korea-flagged, 9,797 gt Hankuk Chemi is owned by DM Shipping Co Ltd of Busan, South Korea. It is managed by Taikun Shipping Co Ltd of Busan, South Korea. It is entered with Japan Club (Tokyo office in charge) on behalf of DM Shipping Co Ltd