The government will put until October off the decision whether to comply with a U.S. request to freeze the assets of Iran's Bank Mellat in Seoul. Iran is a major customer for Korean building contractors.
A government official said Korea "has already started joining sanctions against Iran under UN resolutions and the U.S.' Iran Sanctions Act in such a way that Korean companies are first of all severing 'dangerous' transactions and finding new payment and settlement mechanisms. We'll take time to think about how to implement sanctions on our own."
But another official said UN resolutions and the U.S.' Iran Sanctions Act stipulate that if caught in dealings with Bank Mellat, anyone will be excluded from the U.S. financial system. "They're not demanding we close down the Seoul branch automatically, and whether it should be closed down or not will be decided by the president from a diplomatic perspective."
Cheong Wa Dae has not yet told the Ministry of Strategy and Finance, which is in charge of banking matters, of any policy decision on the issue. Its Seoul branch has already halted business because Korean companies and banks have stopped transactions with it due to the U.S. strictures.
The government is working out a plan for sanction against Iran that envisions banning exports of refined oil products to Iran, which are included in the list of targets, and dealings with blacklisted banks, while protecting normal transactions such as crude oil imports that are not on the list.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Kim Young-sun said, "We are going to join international efforts while trying to minimize damage to legal and normal business activities that are beyond the scope of international sanctions."