Iran tells South Korea not to make seized vessel a political issue

In the ongoing dispute over Iran’s seizure of chemical/oil products tanker Hankuk Chemi (IMO 9232369) last week, Iran told South Korea at the weekend not to “politicize” the seizure, while simultaneously demanding the release of $7bn in Iranian funds held in South Korea.

South Korean vice foreign minister Choi Jong-kun arrived in Tehran on Sunday January 10th to discuss the release of the Hankuk Chemi, which was seized by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards a week ago near the Strait of Hormuz.

Iran has denied allegations that the seizure of the tanker and its crew was effectively a case of taking hostages to be used as a bargaining tool for the $7bn held in South Korea, although it then countered that South Korea was holding Iran’s funds “hostage”.

Iran has insisted that the vessel was seized based on an Iranian court order for “environmental pollution”, although Hankuk Chemi’s Busan-based operator Taikun Shipping Co told Reuters that there was nothing to indicate before the seizure of the vessel that Iranian authorities were probing possible violations of environmental rules.

Iran’s line appears to be that South Korean banks had frozen the $7bn for two and a half years and that this was more a matter of lack of political will than the need to abide by USA sanctions.

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.