North Korean coal and pig iron have been brought into South Korea, potentially in violation of international sanctions against Pyongyang over its nuclear ambitions and intercontinental ballistic missile tests, Seoul's customs office said Friday.
The Korea Customs Office (KCS) said three South Korean companies imported North Korean coal and pig iron worth a combined 6.6 billion won (US$5.86 million) from April through October of 2017.
The three entities were found to have transshipped the resources at a Russian port and fabricated the country of origin to bring the shipments into South Korea, the agency said.
The entities brought North Korean coal to the South, which they earned as commission fees for their role in helping export North Korean goods to other countries via Russia.
North Korean pig iron, which was obtained in exchange for selling Russian coal to North Korea, was also brought into the country via a paper company in Hong Kong, according to the KCS.
It said the three entities were motivated by profit since North Korean coal is cheaper than coal sold on the market.
There have been allegations that several foreign cargo ships carrying North Korean coal have already docked at South Korean ports, with the resource being used here.
The North is banned from exporting coal, iron ore and other mineral resources under Resolution 2371 passed in August last year. U.N. sanctions call for a country to capture and look into a vessel suspected of engaging in prohibited activities with North Korea.
Some sources have said Russia has served as a transit hub for illicit North Korean coal exports, adding to concerns about persistent loopholes in the implementation of the resolutions.
The KCS has been investigating 10 cases of coal shipments suspected of having taken place over a ten-month period, seven of which were confirmed to involve illegal activities.
The agency said four out of the seven cargo ships under probe, including a Belize-flagged ship, the Jin Long, will be reported to the United Nations Security Council for breaking the sanctions resolution as they have been involved in banned activities with North Korea since August, according to official sources.
The three remaining ships will be subject to potential punishment in South Korea, the sources said. (Yonhap)