South Korea inquiry into North Korea imports

Port of Busan The imports were received at five South Korean ports. Credit: Busan Port Authority
Industry Database

Three South Korean firms imported US$5.8m worth of coal and pig iron disguised as Russian products from North Korea to five South Korean ports in violation of UN resolutions, South Korea’s customs agency has said.

South Korea’s capital Seoul is examining nine potential imports cases, according to Reuters. If the imports are from North Korea, they breach a resolution passed last August by the UN Security Council to prevent funding for Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes. The companies have not been identified by the customs agency, but it is estimated the imports took place between April and October last year. They were carried on vessels including the Jin Ao, Rich Vigor and Shining Rich, reported Kveo.

“The firms appear to have illicitly brought it in expecting big trading margins after prices of North Korean coal had dropped due to the import ban,” Roh Suk-hwan, deputy commissioner of the Korea Customs Service, told a news conference, according to Reuters.

Charges ahead

The coal originated from the North Korean ports of Wonsan, Chongjin, Daean and Songlim and were transshipped via the Russian ports of Kholmsk and Vladivostok, stated Kveo.

Charges will be pressed against the firms and individuals involved for violating the customs law and forgery of private document, said the customs agency.

The government also plans to explore an entry ban or seizure of the 14 ships found to have transported the coal, the agency said.

The UN Security Council banned North Korea’s sale of coal, iron, iron ore, lead, lead ore and seafood to reduce the country’s US$3bn annual export incomes, while capping imports of crude oil and refined petroleum products.

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