“South Korea is set to become the second Asian nation to make a payment to Iran for crude oil imports under an interim nuclear deal…Japan became the first of Iran's oil buyers to make a payment to Iran under the eased sanctions earlier this month. It was not clear the amount to be transferred but the Iranian central bank was holding up to $5.6 billion in two won-denominated accounts, one at Woori Bank and the other at Industrial Bank of Korea as of late 2013, according to one of the sources. A second source who confirmed the money transfer added the payment would be made by the two Korean banks next month - one part on early March and the other later in the month…State-owned Woori Bank and Industrial Bank of Korea declined to comment on the money transfer…Bank of Korea and South Korean finance ministry officials contacted by Reuters said no decision had been made about money transfers to Iran.” (Reuters, “South Korea set to make oil payment to Iran - sources,” 2/12/14)
“Under penalty of expulsion from the U.S. banking system, Iranian crude customers such as China, Japan and India will be restricted to using their own currencies for the purchases, starting today. Importers will be compelled to keep the payments in escrow accounts that Iran can use only for locally sourced goods and services, in what will amount to barter arrangements…The new blockage on remittances will add to financial restrictions the U.S. imposed last year that curtail Iran’s access to dollars, euros and other hard currencies. Sanctions have already forced it into barter arrangements with China, its largest oil customer…South Korean buyers have been paying for Iranian crude in local won, through two accounts that Iran’s central bank opened in 2010 at the Industrial Bank of Korea and Woori Bank…South Korea’s exports to Iran of goods such as iron, steel and petrochemicals increased 3.2 percent to $6.3 billion last year, while imports dropped 25 percent, to $8.5 billion, according to customs data. Oil made up 99 percent of the goods that Japan and South Korea imported from Iran.” (Bloomberg, “Iran Faces Oil-Cash Squeeze as U.S. Bolsters Sanctions,” 2/6/14)
“Iran will receive $4.2 billion from its oil sales to be transferred in instalments if it fulfils its commitments in a landmark nuclear deal struck between world powers and Tehran in Geneva. Here is a look at where Iranian oil payments are held in the countries in Asia that are still importing crude from the OPEC producer…
COUNTRY: South Korea
BANK: Woori Bank and Industrial Bank of Korea
ESTIMATED AMOUNT: Iran has about 5.9 trillion won ($5.56 billion) in won deposits, a foreign exchange authority source said.” (Reuters, “FACTBOX-Iran's oil fund stash in Asia,” 11/25/13)
"In response, Rabobank and Société Générale say they have stopped servicing Iran deals or curbed their trade finance. According to Iranian trade professionals, Korea's Woori Bank and Industrial Bank of Korea have done the same. The Korean banks could not be reached for comment." (The Wall Street Journal, "Willing Banks Find Profits in Legal Trade With Iran," 4/8/2012)
Woori Bank is the lending unit of South Korea's third-largest financial company, the state-owned Woori Finance Holdings Co. The firm is currently undergoing privatization negotiations and came under investigation for fraud during the summer of 2010. (Businessweek).
In October 2010, Woori Bank, along with Industrial Bank of Korea, have been appointed by the South Korean government to "finance legitimate trade with Iran in sectors unaffected by sanctions, channelled through Iran's central bank." The deal will allow Iran's central bank to deposit oil proceeds in Woori Bank, which will then use the funds to pay South Korean firms exporting to Iran. South Korean trade to Iran amounts to $10 billion annually. A Woori Bank spokesman explained that "Iran's central bank is not the target of sanctions, so transactions through the bank are legal. We do not worry about any possibly sanctinons by the US against us" (Financial Times).