SEOUL - South Korea said a total of 35,000 tons of North Korean coal and pig iron worth $5.8 million illegally entered its ports last year, in possible violations of U.N. sanctions.
Reporting on preliminary results from a 10-month investigation, the Korea Customs Service said Friday it is seeking prosecutions of three local companies and their executives for smuggling or forging documents to say North Korean mineral resources came from Russia.
They imported North Korean coal or pig iron in seven separate cases between April and October last year to five South Korean ports, the customs office said.
Officials said they were also looking into whether any of the 14 vessels that transported North Korean coal violated sanctions banning such shipments. The United Nations banned North Korean mineral exports, including coal, starting in August 2017.
South Korea started to look into the allegations that North Korean coal may have entered its ports in October. The government came under criticism that it was taking too long to investigate. Customs officials said analyzing a huge volume of documents and seeking help from Russian customs officials slowed progress in the investigation.
The U.N. Security Council first imposed sanctions on North Korea after its first nuclear test in 2006. A recent report to the Security Council found Pyongyang has been violating U.N. sanctions with clandestine shipments of coal, oil and military equipment.