KEB Hana hit for al­leged rights vi­o­la­tions

The Korea Times - - FINANCE - By Jhoo Dong-chan jhoo@ko­re­atimes.co.kr

KEB Hana Bank is fac­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion for pos­si­ble hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions af­ter the bank was found to have re­quested its Ira­nian cus­tomers to close their bank ac­counts, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion (NHRC) Fri­day.

The con­tro­ver­sial move came as the United States has im­posed eco­nomic sanc­tions on the oil-rich Mid­dle Eastern na­tion again, forc­ing Korean banks to cut their ties with Ira­nian com­pa­nies and in­di­vid­u­als.

KEB Hana Bank said it re­quested dozens of its Ira­nian cus­tomers here­via email and tele­phone to close their bank ac­counts be­tween the end of Septem­ber and Oct. 12.

The lender has also sus­pended de­posit and with­drawal ser­vices for Ira­nian cus­tomers here since Oct. 31.

The bank’s Ira­nian cus­tomers are cur­rently only al­lowed to close their ac­counts.

“The case is un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” said an NHRC of­fi­cial.

“The agency re­ceived a pe­ti­tion on Oct. 5. KEB Hana Bank is sus­pected of vi­o­lat­ing hu­man rights of Ira­nian peo­ple in Korea.”

The NHRC stip­u­lates it’s dis­crim­i­na­tion if a cer­tain group of peo­ple are mis­treated be­cause they are from a cer­tain coun­try.

“I un­der­stand their con­cerns of be­ing sub­ject to the U.S. sanc­tion, but it’s un­fair to uni­lat­er­ally sus­pend bank­ing ser­vice for Ira­nian peo­ple whose de­posit and with­drawal trans­ac­tions have noth­ing to do with any ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties,” Ira­nian res­i­dent Ali Karimi, who sub­mit­ted the pe­ti­tion with the NHRC, told lo­cal daily Hanky­oreh.

He has lived in Korea for seven years, work­ing as an in­dus­trial de­signer.

“I have lived and worked in Korea for years, but now feel like I’m a ter­ror­ist. Even Ira­ni­ans in the U.S. have yet to be sub­ject to such dis­crim­i­nat­ing prac­tice.”

KEB Hana Bank said it was a pre­emp­tive mea­sure to avoid the pos­si­ble U.S. sec­ondary boy­cott, adding it has only sus­pended less than 50 Ira­nian cus­tomers’ bank ac­counts ser­vices and they are all small de­pos­i­tors.

The lender also claims not only the gov­ern­ment but also pri­vate banks should con­sider all pos­si­ble con­tin­gen­cies even if it in­con­ve­niences a small group of peo­ple.

KEB Hana Bank of­fi­cials didn’t re­spond to The Korea Times’ re­quest for fur­ther in­for­ma­tion.

Other com­mer­cial banks, in­clud­ing KB Kook­min, Shin­han, NH NongHyup and Woori Bank, have strength­ened their pre­lim­i­nary com­pli­ance process when an Ira­nian opens a new bank ac­count, but none of them have taken mea­sures sim­i­lar to those KEB Hana Bank did.

U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump re-im­posed sanc­tions against Iran af­ter it de­cided to with­draw from a nu­clear deal signed by his pre­de­ces­sor Barack Obama in 2015.

Yon­hap

KEB Hana Bank head of­fice in cen­tral Seoul

Ham Young-joo KEB Hana Bank CEO

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