Over a month ago Iran had seized a South Korean tanker in the Gulf. Now the Iranian authorities have agreed to release all the crew members on board, except the captain.
The South Korean tanker, Hankuk Chemi’s 19 sailors are being released on humanitarian grounds after a request from Seoul, said a foreign ministry spokesperson. He also relayed that South Korea had agreed to unfreeze $7 billion worth of Iranian funds in its banks.
Saeed Khatibzadeh, Iranian foreign ministry spokesman said on Tuesday, “Following the request by the government of South Korea and the goodwill of the judiciary within the framework of the law, the crew of the Korean tanker, which was responsible for polluting the Persian Gulf, have been given permission to leave the country on humanitarian grounds.”
On January 4, the Iranian authorities had captured a South Korean flagged tanker near the Strait of Hormuz citing it for polluting the waters with chemicals that the tanker was carrying. The tanker in-charge however, denied the allegations. It was believed that the strategic move by Iran was linked to a row between the two nations over Iran’s seized funds since the US reinstated sanctions on it post 2018 exit from the nuclear deal, JCPOA.
Post capturing, the 20 crew members were detained in Iran’s port city of Bandar Abbas. Crew members included 11 from Myanmar, 5 South Korea, two from Vietnam and two from Indonesia.
Mr. Khatibzadeh said that investigation into the tanker and its captain would continue after the release of other 19 crew members.
South Korea’s foreign ministry has said that the two nations “shared the view that the release of the sailors was an important first step to restore trust between the two countries and they will work to resolve the issue of frozen Iranian assets in South Korean banks”.