Iran will allow the crew members of a South Korean-flagged tanker it seized last month to leave the country. The ship was seized for violating environmental pollution protocols, Iran said at the time of the seizure. It has held 19 members of the crew since then, but rejects South Korea’s characterization that they were “hostages.”
South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said it will work to resolve the issue of releasing $7 billion in Iranian funds frozen in South Korea due to US sanctions on the Islamic Republic. Iran has denied that it seized the tanker in response to the freezing of the funds. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh called the release of the crew “a humanitarian move.”
Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps naval force on Jan. 3 seized the vessel, the Hankuk Chemi, which was carrying 7,200 tons of oil-based chemicals and had on board crew members from South Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Myanmar.