“Although the Korean ship’s seizure was only due to environmental pollution..., Korean action in expediting the return of Iran’s blocked funds may affect the Judiciary’s decision on resolving the ship’s seizure,” lawmaker Mojtaba Zolnour was quoted as saying by IRNA.
Zolnour, who is also the head of the Iranian Parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, made the remarks in a virtual meeting with the Head of the South Korea’s Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee Song Young-gil on Friday.
Several billions of dollars of Iran’s money, mostly from oil and gas exports, are held abroad and are difficult to access because of tightening US sanctions on the major oil producer in recent years, Press TV wrote.
Around $2.7 billion deposited by the Seoul branch of Iran’s Bank Mellat is held by the Bank of Korea, while more than $7 billion worth of Iranian oil money is stuck at the Industrial Bank of Korea and Woori Bank, according to Yonhap News Agency.
South Korea’s refusal to free them has turned to a diplomatic spat which escalated this month when it sent a unit to the Strait of Hormuz after Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Navy detained a South Korean-flagged tanker for polluting the waters.
Carrying 20 crew members, the ship was sailing through the Strait of Hormuz when it was intercepted for causing water pollution. It was headed to the United Arab Emirates after loading 7,200 tons of oil chemical products in Saudi Arabia.
Iran urged South Korea to behave “rationally” in the aftermath of the seizure after Seoul reported the matter to its National Security Office, ordered its naval destroyer ROKS Choi Young to move near the Strait of Hormuz, and said it was ready to take legal action.
Earlier in January, South Korea’s First Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun visited Tehran to hold talks on the seizure of the ship and Iran’s assets.
He was told by Iranian officials that the detention was a prerogative of the Islamic Republic's judicial system and pressed on Seoul’s refusal to release the Iranian assets.