North Korean Coal Shipped to South Korea in Sanctions Violation

(Bloomberg) -- The Korea Customs Service confirmed that some ships carried North Korean coal into South Korea last year, showing that Pyongyang had found ways to evade UN sanctions imposed over the country’s nuclear weapons program.

The coal shipments were disguised as having originated from Russia even though they were from North Korea, a customs service official told a briefing Friday in Daejeon, South Korea. The United Nations Security Council imposed three rounds of sanctions last year, including bans on North Korean exports of iron, coal, lead, seafood, textiles, as well as some oil-import restrictions.

“We have confirmed seven out of the nine cases that we’ve been investigating to have carried North Korean coal into our country” in violation of Security Council resolutions, said Korea Customs Service Vice Commissioner Roh Suk-hwan. The agency has forwarded three companies and three individuals for prosecution under South Korean law prohibiting North Korean imports.

The seven confirmed shipments occurred between April and October of last year and involved more than 35,000 tons of coal, worth 6.6 billion won ($5.8 million), the agency said. The coal received customs clearance since there was no clear evidence it was North Korean, it said.

Earlier this year, Taipei prosecutors detained a Taiwanese national suspected of helping North Korea transport coal to Vietnam using a ship leased from China.

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