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Iran Officials Urge South Korean PM to Release Frozen Funds

By Orkhan Jalilov April 13, 2021

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Ali Larijani, the advisor of Iranian Supreme Leader and South Korean Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun discussed bilateral ties and other issues, in a meeting in Tehran on April 12, 2021. / MEHR News Agency

Iranian top officials have called on South Korean Premier Chung Sye-kyun to release Iranian funds frozen in South Korean banks “as soon as possible”.

Ali Larijani, the Supreme Leader's foreign policy adviser received Chung Sye-kyun, on the second day of his official visit to Iran on April 12, and emphasized the importance of deepening the bilateral relationship in a variety of fields, but also discussed the issue of the blocked funds.

"Let the funds be released as fast as possible so that, God forbid, there will be no negative impact on the bilateral relationship," Fars news agency quoted Larijani as saying.

Chung pledged to find a way of freeing the blocked funds as soon as possible, and spoke of the importance of developing long-term bilateral ties in all fields.

In a meeting with the South Korean prime minister, Iran’s Majlis Speaker Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf remembered the good relations that had long existed between the two countries, but also expressed his regret that Seoul had lost its advantageous position in Tehran’s political and economic relations.

He said that a particular problem is the Iranian frozen funds held in South Korean banks, and expressed hope that the funds would soon be released, adding that Chung's trip to Iran represented a "new beginning" for cooperation in political and economic fields.

For his part, Chung said that relations between the two countries had run into difficulties after 2018, but noted that Iranian officials are exerting their "utmost efforts to surmount these problems."

During a joint press conference with Iran's First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri in Tehran on April 11, the South Korean prime minister said that his country "needs to step up cooperation with related nations including Iran" to settle the frozen fund issue.

Chung also added that Seoul is willing to provide "sideline" support for Iran to advance a "productive" dialogue with partners in restoring the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

“We call on the (South) Korean government to release Iran’s financial resources as soon as possible,” Iran’s First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri said during the news conference. 

Chung was visiting Iran for a three-day visit that ended on April 13 to discuss bilateral ties amid lingering tension over Tehran's call to unlock its funds of $7 billion frozen in South Korea under US sanctions. Iran was a key oil supplier to South Korea until Seoul stopped its purchases, after a US decision in 2018, under then-president Donald Trump.

The frozen funds have been a major diplomatic issue between the two countries that has been widely attributed as the reason behind Iran's seizure of a South Korean oil tanker and its crew members in early January.

Iran released the 20-member crew in February but had continued to detain the ship and its captain while demanding that South Korea unlock frozen Iranian assets. Tehran released the ship and its captain last week.