Iran allows crew of detained Korean tanker to head home

Iran has agreed to allow all bar one of the crew of the South Korean tanker Hankuk Chemi to head home.

The South Korean-flagged tanker was seized on January 4 by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards near the Strait of Hormuz, with Iranians claiming the ship had broken environmental rules, something the ship’s owner in Busan, DM Shipping, denied.

“Following a request by the South Korean government, the crew of the Korean ship, which was detained on charges of causing environmental pollution in the Persian Gulf, have received permission to leave the country in a humanitarian move by Iran,” a spokesperson for Iran’s foreign ministry told state media. The legal case against the vessel and its captain continues, he said.

Deputy foreign minister Abbas Araqchi spoke by telephone with his South Korean counterpart Choi Jong-kun on the release of the crew of 19 and the issue of releasing $7bn in Iranian funds frozen in South Korea because of US sanctions.

“The two sides…shared the view that the release of the sailors was an important first step to restore trust between the two countries and they will work to resolve the issue of frozen Iranian assets in South Korean banks,” South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The Hankuk Chemi’s captain will remain in Iran. It was not clear when the vessel might be allowed to leave.

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