South Korea has joined the list of nations who will sanction Iran in the hopes of stopping its nuclear program. The International Atomic Energy Agency has recently issued a report showing proof that Iran’s nuclear ambitions are not civilian in nature as claimed by the Iranian regime.
In turn, last month Britain, Canada and the US hit Iran with new sanctions focusing on Iran’s financial, petrochemical and energy operations. Now, South Korea has added over 100 names to the already large list of Iranian firms and individuals who are sanctioned by Seoul.
However, South Korea’s new measures did not include a ban on imports of petrochemicals or crude oil. For this reason the move was seen as not broad enough for the US State Department, whose special adviser for non-proliferation, Robert Einhorn, visited Seoul last week and called on US allies to ban petrochemical imports from Iran.
For countries which have trading ties with Iran, like South Korea, that is not so easy. South Korea imported about $333 million of petrochemicals from Iran in 2010 and exported about $466 million of petrochemicals to Iran in the same year. Iran is also a major supplier of energy to South Korea: 8.3 percent of the 870 million barrels imported in 2010 into South Korea came from Iran.
Last year South Korea did take major steps to sanction Iran by restricting new investment in Iran’s oil and gas industry and by imposing reductions in exports. But any reduction or halt in Iranian crude imports would likely disrupt the Korean economy and complicate its efforts to hold down inflation.