August 3, 2020
South Korea and Iran have agreed to launch a working group on expanding humanitarian trade as part of efforts to maintain bilateral partnership within the scope of a US-approved sanctions exemption, a source close to the matter said Sunday.
The director general-level consultation aims to discuss on a regular basis how to match Iran’s demand for medicine and medical equipment with what South Korean exporters can offer, the source said, according to Yonhap news agency.
The first working group talks will likely be held early next month.
The two sides reached the agreement during their higher-level virtual talks held earlier this week, Yonhap said. In the talks, Tehran expressed intent to purchase several hundred millions of dollars worth of South Korean products, according to the source.
South Korea has been seeking to expand humanitarian exports to Iran, including coronavirus test kits, amid the worsening COVID-19 outbreak there, as well as other essential medicine, like flu vaccines and antidiabetics.
Expanding humanitarian trade with Tehran is also expected to help the two countries settle the issue of Iran’s assets — known to be worth up to $7 billion — frozen in two Korean bank accounts since last year due to Washington’s tightened sanctions against Tehran, Yonhap reported.
The two countries had used the won currency-based accounts to continue Korea’s oil imports from Iran and exports of goods to Iran upon the US waiver of sanctions limiting dollar-based financial transactions with Tehran. But Washington refused to extend the sanctions waiver.