South Korea summoned the Iranian ambassador Tuesday after Tehran threatened to sue Seoul over the freezing of Iranian assets in the country due to US sanctions.
Seoul’s Foreign Ministry summoned Iran’s ambassador, Saeed Badamchi Shabestari, and voiced its regrets over “inappropriate” remarks by an Iranian official, The Korea Times reported.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Mousavi said over the weekend that Iran might file a complaint against South Korea to the International Court of Justice if Seoul does not release Iran’s frozen assets.
Mousavi accused South Korea of having a “master-servant” relationship with the US.
South Korean Foreign Ministry Spokesman Kim In-chul was quoted in The Korea Times as saying that the Iranian ambassador “called for understanding” and stressed that Mousavi’s remarks were “not the official position of the Iranian government.”
According to The Korea Times, Iran has funds worth up to $7 billion that have been frozen in South Korea since September 2019 when Washington’s sanctions waiver for South Korea’s imports of Iranian oil expired.
In June, Hossein Tanhayi, head of the Iran-South Korea chamber of commerce, reportedly said that between $6.5 billion and $9 billion belonging to Iran was blocked in South Korean banks.
Iran’s economy has been hit hard since 2018 when US President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the 2015 nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions on the country.
Prior to the reimposition of US sanctions on Tehran by Trump, South Korea’s annual imports from Iran were worth $8 billion.
That figure went down to $5 million only in the first half of 2020.