KEB Hana hit for alleged rights violations
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.
KEB Hana Bank head office in central Seoul
Ham Young-joo KEB Hana Bank CEO