This file photo taken on Nov 21, 2017 shows a general view of DPRK coal piled up on a dockside at the port in Rason. (ED JONES / AFP)
SEOUL - Three Republic of Korea’s firms imported coal from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea disguised as Russian products in violation of UN sanctions, the South's customs agency said on Friday.
ROK has been examining nine cases of potential imports of DPRK coal, which would breach a resolution passed last August by the UN Security Council to choke off funding for Pyongyang's nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
The firms appear to have illicitly brought it in expecting big trading margins after prices of North Korean coal had dropped due to the import ban
Roh Suk-hwan, Deputy Commissioner, Korea Customs Service
The customs service did not specify the number of ships or identify the companies involved, but said 35,000 tons of coal was brought into ROK in seven instances since October.
"The firms appear to have illicitly brought it in expecting big trading margins after prices of North Korean coal had dropped due to the import ban," Roh Suk-hwan, deputy commissioner of the Korea Customs Service, told a news conference.
The DPRK is also referred to as North Korea.
The agency said it would press charges against the firms and individuals involved for violating the customs law and forgery of private documents.
The government also plans to explore an entry ban or seizure of the 14 ships found to have transported the coal, the agency said.
But there was no financial transaction made, which would constitute another violation of the UN sanctions, as the companies took coal in return for mediating trade between the DPRK and Russia, Roh said.
The UN Security Council banned North Korea's sale of coal, iron, iron ore, lead, lead ore and seafood in a bid to slash by a third the country's US$3 billion annual export incomes, while capping imports of crude oil and refined petroleum products.
The United States has led the sanctions campaign to press the DPRK to give up its nuclear and missile programs.