A Belize-flagged ship, Jin Long, anchored in Pohang Saturday with coal loaded in Russia by submitting a certificate of origin from Russia and went through customs without an issue.
The Jin Long is one of the three vessels that are suspected to have smuggled coal from North Korea. The three vessels have sailed in and out more than 52 times since North Korean coal was banned from importing last August, which is quite suspicious. It is problematic that the South Korean authorities are not taking any action on the Jin Long. The South Korean customs authority is only repeatedly saying that the suspicion is not proven to be true.
Smuggling coal from North Korea is a sensitive issue that can affect many South Korean businesses and the Seoul-Washington coordination to denuclearize the North. The government should not play up mistakes of South Korean businesses. But the worst-case scenario is the South Korean government being suspected of concealing it by being passive. The South Korean government could incur suspicion that it connived the smuggling. To prevent this, the government should reset its attitude on this significant issue. It cannot convince the global community by saying that it is investigating the issue for 10 months.
Right after 9,700 tons of North Korean coal disguised as Russian coal was imported to the South, the United States delivered a message that the coal was likely to be from North Korea. The U.S. government, congress and press are fixing their sight on this issue to tell whether South Korea violated sanctions or not. The South Korean government cannot drag on and cover it with an ambiguous explanation. It needs to investigate our businesses involved in the issue as soon as possible. If our businesses are at fault, it needs to hold them accountable and ask the global community for understanding. It needs to be objective and strict and should be able to explain the issue to any countries including the United States.