South Korea has agreed to release a part of funds belonging to Iran and frozen in the country’s banks under pressure from the United States, says a businessman leading trade between the two countries.
Hossein Tanhayi, who chairs Iran-South Korea Joint Chamber of Commerce, said on Tuesday that the two countries had agreed to use a first installment of the funds for Iran’s purchase of drugs and medical equipment.
“It was agreed that part of Iran’s money in South Korea be returned to the country in the form of medical items and drugs,” Tanhayi said in an interview with the semi-official ILNA news agency.
The announcement comes two days after Central Bank of Iran (CBI) Governor Abdolnasser Hemmati said he had obtained some positive news about the return of funds blocked in a foreign country amid a shortage of hard currency in Iran that has pushed exchange prices to historic highs.
There were speculations in the Iranian media on Monday that the country in question could be South Korea.
Iranian authorities said in March that South Korean banks had imposed fresh restrictions on Iran’s access to billions of dollars in funds that had been frozen since 2018 when the United states imposed its unilateral sanctions on Iran.
They said the banks had begun to block Iran’s requests for using the funds for purchase of medicine and medical equipment despite the facts that Tehran needed the items to fight the new corornavirus pandemic.
However, Tanhayi said it was now up to the CBI and the Iranian health ministry to take maximum benefit of the funds for such purchases in South Korea.
“We hope we could bring a sizable amount of this money back to the country,” said Tanhayi about the funds which are estimated to be between $6.5 billion and $9 billion and are related to past sales of oil to South Korea.
The businessman added that Iran would seek to expand the use of the funds in future to cover purchases of food and animal feed.