Seoul to send delegation to Iran to negotiate release of seized S. Korean ship

SEOUL, South Korea will dispatch a delegation to Iran to negotiate the release of a seized Korean oil tanker and its sailors, officials said Tuesday.
The South Korean-flagged MT Hankuk Chemi was seized Monday by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) in the Strait of Hormuz reportedly due to allegations of chemical pollution. The operator of the ship denied the allegations.
Five South Koreans, 11 Myanmarese, two Indonesians and two Vietnamese were on board when it was seized. The vessel was traveling from Saudi Arabia to the United Arab Emirates.
“A delegation, to be headed by the director-general of the related region, will be dispatched to Iran at the earliest date possible in efforts to resolve the matter through bilateral negotiations with the Iranian side,” foreign ministry spokesperson Choi Young-sam said in a press briefing.
The delegation will be led by Koh Kyung-sok, director-general of the ministry’s African and Middle Eastern affairs, he added.
First Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun is also expected to address the issue when he travels to Tehran early next week, according to the ministry.
His planned three-day trip, starting Sunday, had already been arranged prior to the incident, mainly to discuss an agreement to unlock the Iranian money in Seoul that has been frozen under sanctions against Tehran.
News reports said Tehran was considering proposing to Seoul that the two countries barter the frozen money for COVID-19 vaccines and other goods.
“I believe there will be broad discussions on various issues of mutual concern for South Korea and Iran. There will of course be an exchange of opinions about the recent ship seizure,” the spokesperson Choi added.
The ministry repeatedly stressed that all diplomatic efforts are under way for a solution regarding the seizure.
Earlier, a foreign ministry official met with the Iranian ambassador in Seoul to lodge a protest over the ship seizure.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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