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Iran demands South Korea tanker pay 'pollution' fines

The MT Hankuk Chemi, a South Korea-flagged ship, was detained by Iran's Revolutionary Guards on Monday. Iranian officials are demanding compensation for alleged marine pollution. Photo by Tasnim News Agency/EPA-EFE
The MT Hankuk Chemi, a South Korea-flagged ship, was detained by Iran's Revolutionary Guards on Monday. Iranian officials are demanding compensation for alleged marine pollution. Photo by Tasnim News Agency/EPA-EFE

Jan. 5 (UPI) -- Iran is demanding the parent company of a South Korean tanker seized Monday pay damages for polluting waters in the Strait of Hormuz as the firm denies the allegations.

Massoud Polmeh, chairman of Iran's Shipping Society, said Tuesday confiscating the MT Hankuk Chemi and detaining crew members was the right thing to do in light of "violations," Iran's Mehr News Agency reported.

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"The South Korean ship was seized for repeated violations of environmental laws," Polmeh said, without providing details of the alleged offense. "They must pay compensation for environmental pollution."

Polmeh's statement comes a day after Iran's Revolutionary Guards said the tanker repeatedly violated Iran's anti-pollution guidelines, and that the ship was carrying 7,200 tons of chemicals.

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DM Shipping, the South Korean shipping company, said the charges are false, South Korean news service CBS No Cut News reported Tuesday.

"We have no reason to pollute the seas," a firm representative said.

"Because there are so many boats nearby, if there was any marine pollution, we would have already received a report" about the tanker from other sources, DM Shipping said.

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On Tuesday Seoul's foreign ministry summoned Iranian Ambassador Saeed Badamchi Shabestari, and expressed regret, according to local news service News 1.

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Shabestari, who was also summoned last year after an Iranian official threatened to sue Seoul over the freezing of Iranian assets in compliance with U.S. sanctions, said all crew members including citizens of South Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam and Myanmar are safe.

South Korea's military has responded to the seizure of the tanker. The 33rd contingent of the Cheonghae unit, assigned to anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden, was deployed to the Strait of Hormuz to "respond to the situation," News 1 reported.

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The office of President Moon Jae-in said the incident is being taken "very seriously" and emergency meetings have been held among the ministries, according to Newsis.

South Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun is to visit Iran on a three-day trip on Sunday to "resolve the issue," according to reports.

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