Seoul briefs UN on illegal North Korean coal

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Seoul briefs UN on illegal North Korean coal

South Korea has submitted a letter to the UN Security Council detailing the results of its recent probe into illegal shipments of North Korean coal, a diplomatic source said on Monday.

Customs authorities said on Friday that three South Korean companies brought in 35,038 tons of North Korean coal and pig iron, worth a combined 6.6 billion won ($5.81 million), on seven occasions between April and October last year, in breach of a UN sanctions resolution.

The three companies were found to have transshipped the resources at a Russian port and misstated the country of origin to bring them into South Korea, Seoul officials said.

The investigation came amid accusations that Seoul was not taking proper steps to block the entry of illegal North Korean products. The North is banned from exporting coal, iron ore and other mineral resources under Resolution 2371 adopted in August last year. UN sanctions also call for a country to capture and look into a vessel suspected of engaging in prohibited activities with the North.

The vice foreign minister, Cho Hyun, ruled out the possibility that South Korean companies that unknowingly purchased North Korean coal would be subject to “secondary boycott” measures from the United States that penalize entities doing business with the North.

“The firms just bought such coal through the transparent bidding procedures,” Cho said in an interview with Voice of America. “Those subject to punishment are the individuals that caused the problem.”

Asked about criticism of the drawn-out probe into illegal shipments, Cho pointed out that Seoul sought to “accurately” investigate the case.

“In accordance with the principle of being presumed innocent until proven guilty, [we] could not inform [the public of the investigation] in the interim period, and it took time as [we] tried to accurately probe it,” he said.

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