S. Korea probes illegal imports of N.Korean coal: Yonhap

Lim Chang-won Reporter Posted : 2018-07-17 19:16 Updated : 2018-07-17 19:16
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[Yonhap News Photo]

SEOUL -- South Korean authorities have opened an investigation into two illegal shipments of North Korean coal into South Korean ports last year in violation of United Nations sanctions, the foreign ministry said Tuesday.

Earlier in the day, American broadcaster Voice of America (VOA) reported that North Korean coal was twice shipped to South Korea via Russia last year. Citing an annual report submitted by an expert panel under the U.N. sanction committee, the broadcaster said that the North's coal shipped to the Russian port of Kholmsk was reloaded and sent to South Korean ports of Incheon and Pohang on October 2 and October 11, 2017, respectively.

The foreign ministry in Seoul said in a press briefing that the government was already conducting an investigation into the case. "The South Korean government has been closely cooperating with the international community to faithfully implement the U.N. sanctions on North Korea. I'm aware of an ongoing investigation by the authorities," ministry spokesman Noh Kyu-duk said.

An official at the ministry said separately that import declaration and registration for the two shipments were completed before the relevant intelligence was obtained by the authorities. "The coal in question was unloaded on arriving at South Korean ports. Private South Korean importers are now under probe on suspicion of importing North Korean coal in violation of the Customs Law," the official said.

According to the U.N. report, North Korean coal was shipped from the North's ports of Wonsan and Chongjin to Kholmsk on six occasions between July and September last year. The coal was then reloaded onto two ships, registered in Panama and Sierra Leone, which later docked at Incheon on October 2 and Pohang on October 11, respectively.