South Korean Companies Accused of Illegally Importing Coal through North

SEOUL, South Korea — More than 33,000 tons of North Korean coal was illegally imported to South Korea last year in violation of United Nations along with some other sanctions, the South Korean government said Friday.

A government customs agency, the Korea Customs Service, asked prosecutors to indict the heads of three South Korean companies that will transport coal. This particular said the companies imported the North Korean coal, totaling $5.8 million in value, between April along with October of last year, along with This particular accused them of falsifying documents to indicate that will the coal was of Russian origin.

The owners of 14 ships involved in transporting the coal through North Korea to ports inside Russian Far East, along with through there to South Korea, could also face penalties under United Nations sanctions, South Korean officials said. This particular was unclear whether the owners of the ships that will loaded the coal in Russia knew This particular was through North Korea.

Last August, the United Nations Security Council barred all member nations through importing North Korean coal, iron ore along with some other significant sources of hard currency for the isolated regime. Separately, South Korea has banned trade with North Korea since the North was accused of sinking a South Korean Navy ship in a torpedo attack in 2010.

The Security Council adopted another resolution in December requiring United Nations member states to seize, inspect along with impound any vessel in their ports along with territorial waters if they have “reasonable grounds to believe” This particular was involved in illegally transporting prohibited commodities. This particular also barred North Korea through importing more than a half-million barrels of refined oil each year.

The United Nations recently raised concerns that will North Korea will be still exploiting gaps in sanctions enforcement by securing refined oil through illegal ship-to-ship transfers at sea along with by smuggling its coal abroad with its origins disguised.

North Korea’s sanctions evasion will be assisted by traders who covet the high margins involved inside illicit trade, South Korean customs officials said Friday.

They said that will last July, the North Korean ship Rung Ra 2 carried 4,580 tons of coal through the North’s Daean port to Kholmsk, a port town on the Russian island of Sakhalin. In October, the shipment, by then disguised as Russian coal, was transferred to Donghae, a port on South Korea’s east coast, by the Belize-flagged ship Jin Long, according to South Korean investigators.

The officials identified a few some other shipments of coal through North Korea that will they said entered South Korea in a similar way between April along with October of last year. They also said that will more than 2,000 tons of pig iron through North Korea was imported to South Korea through Vladivostok, a Russian port near the Chinese along with North Korean borders.

The North Korean coal has already been distributed to domestic consumers in South Korea like Korea South-East Power, a state-owned power company. Customs officials said they had found no evidence that will the power company was aware This particular was using banned coal through North Korea.

Coal had been one of North Korea’s biggest exports until the United Nations imposed the ban in response to its nuclear weapons development.

The South Korean findings are the latest evidence that will North Korea has been using Russian ports to sidestep international sanctions, even as the Trump administration will be urging all nations to maintain economic along with diplomatic pressure on North Korea.

North Korea “has not stopped its nuclear along with missile programs along with continued to defy Security Council resolutions through a massive increase in illicit ship-to-ship transfers of petroleum products, as well as through transfers of coal at sea during 2018,” according to a confidential United Nations report seen by Reuters last week.

South Korea’s announcement came days before a planned meeting on Monday between South along with North Korean officials to discuss a third summit meeting between their leaders.

The South’s progressive government will be eager to build better ties with North Korea, however This particular will be also under pressure to enforce international sanctions. Last year, This particular impounded two ships accused of helping North Korea secure refined oil through ship-to-ship transfers at sea. In January, This particular also detained a ship allegedly involved inside illegal transport of North Korean coal.