May 17, 2019 12:48
South Korean firms continue to export banned materials that can be used to make weapons of mass destruction, according to government data.
This sends alarm bells ringing because they could be shipped to North Korea or Iran through intermediary countries.
According to data from the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, South Korean firms were caught on 156 occasions exporting so-called strategic materials illegally since 2015, with discovered cases rising from 14 in 2015 to 41 last year.
In the first three months of this year alone, whopping 31 illegal shipments were intercepted, though the figures do not show whether this is due to greater vigilance or an increase in attempts.
Strategic materials are equipment or technology that can be turned into weapons of mass destruction or vehicles to deliver them. In May last year, South Korean centrifuges were illegally sold to Russia and Indonesia. Companies here also sold zirconium, which is used to make the cores of nuclear reactors, to China in October of 2017, while diisopropylamine, which is used to manufacture biological weapons like the VX nerve gas, was exported to Malaysia.
VX nerve gas was used to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's half-brother Jong-nam in Kuala Lumpur in 2017.
In September 2015 and March last year, South Korean firms exported to Syria materials that can be used to manufacture chemical and biological weapons.
Of the illegal shipments, 70 were related to chemical and biological weapons, 53 to conventional weapons, 29 to nuclear weapons, two to missiles and one to chemical weapons. All South Korean companies must obtain government approval before exporting strategic materials, even to countries that are not blacklisted by the UN Security Council.
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