Iranian funds that have been frozen in South Korea due to US sanctions are worth $8.5 billion, an Iranian trade official said Tuesday, adding that their release depends on the outcome of the US presidential election set to take place next week.
Hossein Tanhaei, head of the Iran-South Korea Chamber of Commerce, said talks between Tehran and Seoul for the release of the frozen funds have been inconclusive.
Tanhaei said both countries are at the “planning and negotiations stage” and that “nothing has been seen in practice yet.”
The process of unfreezing Iran’s funds in South Korean banks “undoubtedly” depends on the outcome of the US presidential election, the semi-official ILNA news agency cited him as saying.
“Both countries are waiting for the announcement of the US election results,” Tanhaei said, without elaborating any further.
While Iranian officials have on numerous occasions stated that it makes no difference to Iran who wins the Nov. 3 election, the Islamic republic is said to prefer a Joe Biden victory.
Iran’s economy has been hit hard since 2018 when US President Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers and reimposed crushing sanctions on the country.
Biden has vowed to return to the deal.
Economic ties between Iran and South Korea have worsened sharply since 2018.
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.
Seoul summoned Iran’s ambassador to South Korea in July after Tehran threatened to sue the country over the freezing of Iranian assets.