Lessen Iran sanctions impactSouth Korea announced its own set of sanctions against Iran on Wednesday, in line with international actions to stop the country’s suspected nuclear weapons program. The government will prohibit unauthorized transactions with 102 Iranian financial and corporate enterprises, including a two-month suspension on the Seoul branch of the state-invested Bank Mellat. It will also block 24 individuals from entering Korea and freeze their assets.
These measures go beyond the sanctions listed in United Nations Security Council Resolution 1929 against Iran, declared in early June along with recommended measures. The United States has been building international support for a resolution to condemn and sanction Iran for its plan to enrich uranium, which Iran claims will be used for peaceful purposes but which the U.S. believes is being used to build nuclear weapons. Joining the international action posed a conundrum for the Korean government as it weighed conflicting foreign and domestic interests.
As the host of the November G-20 summit, Korea could not ignore the international call to join efforts against Iran. At the same time, with nearly $10 billion in trade with Iran last year, the blow to local companies after the sanctions go into effect could not be overlooked.
After a long and hard process of deliberation, the government has chosen to uphold its obligations on the foreign front and comply with international efforts to make the world safe, even if it takes an immediate toll on local companies. It was an inevitable decision. The government had to consider international backing on efforts to denuclearize North Korea and reinforced ties with the U.S., which has been overtly supportive of Seoul in addressing North Korea’s attack on local naval ship Cheonan.
We support the government’s diplomatic choice on Iran. Now, we should put the sanctions dispute behind us and instead increase our commitment to denuclearization and nonproliferation, despite trade losses to win international support and recognition for our efforts.
The government also should strive to minimize the blow to local companies. First of all, it must seek an alternative window for trade settlements so that authorized export and import activities are not hampered by sanctions on the Iranian banks.
In the meantime, the government should also ensure that the sanctions do not kill normal trade relations with Iran. We must sustain economic ties with Iran, which supplies nearly 10 percent of Korea’s crude oil imports. On the foreign stage, there are no friends or enemies forever. The choice depends on what is best for national interests.