U.S. Treasury says contact with banks routine

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U.S. Treasury says contact with banks routine

The United States Treasury Department said it is not considering any measures against Korean banks despite contacting a number of the local institutions directly in September.

It was responding to concerns that the banks could be the target of actions by the U.S. authorities.

“The regular communication with the private sector should not be misinterpreted as a signal of future sanctions,” the Treasury said in an email to Korean media Thursday.

The U.S. department went on to note that its recent contact with major Korean banks was routine.

“We are in regular contact with the private sector in the U.S. and international societies,” the Treasury Department said. “This is to provide general guidance on sanctions and regulations of the Foreign Assets Control Department under the Treasury Department.”

In discussions on Kakao Talk and other internet messengers, users speculated that the Treasury will announce sanctions against a South Korean bank for trading with North Korea.

The claim sent bank stocks sinking, prompting the government and banks to refute suggestions that action against the institutions is imminent.

An unidentified deputy assistant secretary at the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence held phone discussions in September with Korea Development Bank, Shinhan Bank, KEB Hana Bank, Woori Bank and KB Kookmin Bank urging them to comply with UN sanctions on North Korea.

The banks said at the time that the subject of the call was the monitoring of foreign transactions. Some lawmakers raised concerns that such contact is unusual and that the intention was to express Washington’s concern over the South Korean government’s rapidly improving ties with the North.

BY PARK EUN-JEE [park.eunjee@joongang.co.kr]
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