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Iran Releases Ship, Captain After South Korea Promises to Help Free Frozen Funds

Iran released the South Korean chemical tanker Hankuk Chemi and its captain on Friday, after South Korea promised to try to secure the release of $7 billion in Iranian funds frozen in South Korean banks by US sanctions. The Naval Command of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps seized the ship in the Strait of Hormuz off Oman and detained its captain in January, claiming it had done so “over oil pollution and environmental hazards,” a charge that the South Korean government denies.

Iran freed all of the ship’s 20 crew members except for the captain in February.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry said it released the ship after an investigation and at the request of its owner and the South Korean government. “Iran, with long coastlines in the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman, stresses full compliance with maritime regulations, including environmental protection, and monitors every violation in this respect,” Saeed Khatibzadeh, a foreign ministry spokesman, said in a statement reported by the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency.

The South Korean Foreign Ministry confirmed that the ship had left Iran, and said in a statement that “the captain and sailors are in good health.”