South Korea: North Korean coal en­tered its ports il­le­gally

The Western Star - - WORLD -

South Korea said a to­tal of 35,000 tons of North Korean coal and pig iron worth $5.8 mil­lion il­le­gally en­tered its ports last year, in pos­si­ble vi­o­la­tions of UN sanc­tions.

Re­port­ing on pre­lim­i­nary re­sults from a 10-month in­ves­ti­ga­tion, the Korea Cus­toms Ser­vice said Fri­day it is seek­ing pros­e­cu­tions of three lo­cal com­pa­nies and their ex­ec­u­tives for smug­gling or forg­ing doc­u­ments to say North Korean min­eral re­sources came from Rus­sia.

They im­ported North Korean coal or pig iron in seven sep­a­rate cases be­tween April and Oc­to­ber last year to five South Korean ports, on the Jin Ao, Rich Vigor, Shin­ing Rich and other ves­sels, the cus­toms of­fice said.

The coal orig­i­nated from the North Korean ports of Won­san, Chongjin, Daean and Songlim and were trans­shipped via the Rus­sian ports of Kholmsk and Vladi­vos­tok.

Of­fi­cials said they were also look­ing into whether any of the 14 ves­sels that trans­ported North Korean coal vi­o­lated sanc­tions ban­ning such ship­ments. The United Na­tions banned North Korean min­eral ex­ports, in­clud­ing coal, start­ing in Au­gust 2017. Sales of its min­eral re­sources is a cash main­stay for North Korea. The bulk of rev­enue from those ex­ports go to state-owned com­pa­nies and help fi­nance de­vel­op­ment of its mis­siles.

The find­ing comes as South Korean Pres­i­dent Moon Jaein’s ad­min­is­tra­tion pur­sues de­tente with the North. Hopes are high for eco­nomic co-op­er­a­tion and in­vest­ment in North Korea once sanc­tions are lifted. De­spite bur­geon­ing diplo­matic ef­forts to dis­arm North Korea, the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity has main­tained max­i­mum pres­sure on the North. North Korea has chafed at U.S. in­sis­tence that no sanc­tions be eased un­til Py­ongyang’s dis­arms its nu­clear weapons.

South Korea started look­ing into al­le­ga­tions of North Korean coal im­ports back in Oc­to­ber and the gov­ern­ment was crit­i­cized over how long it was tak­ing to in­ves­ti­gate. The cus­toms of­fi­cials said an­a­lyz­ing a huge vol­ume of doc­u­ments and seek­ing help from Rus­sian cus­toms of­fi­cials slowed progress in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

De­ter­min­ing if sanc­tions ban­ning ex­ports or North Korean min­eral re­sources were vi­o­lated may take time.

“In or­der to sanc­tion the ves­sels, we need rea­son­able ev­i­dence that they were in­volved in the ac­tiv­i­ties banned by the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil,’’ Roh Sukhwan, deputy com­mis­sioner of Korea Cus­toms Ser­vice, said in a tele­vised press con­fer­ence.

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