South Korean with same name as sanctioned North Korean denied transaction

Elizabeth Shim
A South Korean man cannot send money overseas because of his name, according to a local press report. File Photo by Yonhap/EPA
A South Korean man cannot send money overseas because of his name, according to a local press report. File Photo by Yonhap/EPA

Nov. 20 (UPI) -- A South Korean dad says he is unable to send money to his daughter in Canada because he has a similar name as a man under North Korea sanctions.

Lee Hak-cheol, 54, has tried to transfer about $2,100 in funds to an overseas account, local television network MBC reported Wednesday.


Lee told the network he has been transacting with the bank for 20 years without problems until recently, when he tried to send money to his daughter.

Clerks at the unidentified South Korean bank said it would be "difficult" for Lee to send money abroad because he has the same name as a North Korean national under sanctions, according to the report.

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North Korean national Ri Hak Chol is under United Nations sanctions. He is identified as the president of Green Pine, a North Korean defense entity. Ri Hak Chol was also identified in 2017 as the president of Pyongyang's Ski Association. Ri had complained North Korean athletes were unable to purchase ski equipment two years ago, owing to U.S. sanctions.

The problems South Korean Lee Hak-cheol are facing are puzzling; North and South Korea use different systems of Romanization and a quick check would be sufficient to clear Lee.

Lee has said he eventually had to let his wife transfer the funds to his Canada-based daughter.

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Lee added he was told an identity check could take as long as a week, even a month, if at all.

"I have never been inconvenienced because of my name. I am a South Korean national, and presented all my documents," he said.

South Korean bank representatives told MBC the case is not in their hands, because the identity check is conducted at the overseas bank, or receiving location.

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South Korea's Financial Supervisory Service said Lee could raise the issue with the Canadian embassy, according to the report.

In 2016, a South Korean woman with the same name as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was barred from transferring funds to her sister overseas, according to local paper Hankyoreh.

North Korea is under heavy sanctions for missile and nuclear weapons tests in 2017.

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