South Korean delegation in Iran after oil tanker seized

A South Korean delegation arrives in Iran amid tensions following the seizure of a South Korean oil tanker and its crew by Iranian forces in sensitive Gulf waters this week.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said Monday it had seized the South Korean-flagged Hankuk Chemi for infringing maritime environmental laws.

The Guards said the vessel was carrying 7,200 tonnes of “oil chemical products” and that the detained crew were from South Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam and Myanmar.

The South Korean delegation, led by the director-general of the foreign ministry’s Middle Eastern affairs department, board a plane early Thursday and was set to arrive in Tehran via Doha.

“I plan to meet my counterpart at the Iranian foreign ministry and will meet others through various routes if it will help efforts to resolve the issue of the ship’s seizure,” says Koh Kyung-sok, the chief delegate, before boarding the plane.

But the government spokesman in Tehran gives a different version of the reason for the visit.

In a statement late Thursday Said Khatibzadeh says it was an advance delegation ahead of a visit Sunday by South Korean deputy foreign minister Choi Jong-Kun.

The visit by the South Korean delegation “had been agreed before the seizure” of the Hankuk Chemi oil tanker, “and its main goal is to discuss ways of accessing Iranian funds in Korea,” Khatibzadeh says.