A North Korean ship seized and auctioned off by the US had operated under the South Korean flag in the past, Voice of America reported Thursday.
According to the report, the Wise Honest was owned by South Korean entities between 2004 and 2015 and sailed under the name “Eny.”
Based on International Maritime Organization data, the report showed that the ship began operations as a Panama-registered vessel in 1989, and came to be owned by the South Korean entities in 2004, after operating under the flags of Greece, Malta and the Philippines.
In February 2015, the ship began operating under the Cambodian flag. It was transferred to Sierra Leone, West Africa, in August and to Tanzania, East Africa, in May the following year. The vessel became registered to North Korea in November 2016.
However, the ship was renamed “Song I” immediately after being registered to Cambodia, prompting Voice of America to raise the possibility that the ship’s ownership was transferred to North Korea directly from South Korean entities.
However, the time at which the ship’s ownership was allegedly handed over from the South Korean entities was before the UN Security Council’s resolution banning the transfer of ownership, or renting of ships to North Korea.
South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has not commented on whether the transaction was in violation of UN sanctions on North Korea, saying only that the situation at the time needs to be assessed.
Meanwhile, the vessel has been auctioned by the US Coast Guard and has left the custody of US authorities.
The 17,061-ton Wise Honest, one of the North’s largest bulk carriers, was seized by the US in May after it was intercepted by Indonesian authorities for allegedly transferring coal and machinery in violation of United Nations sanctions on the regime. The ship had since been docked in American Samoa.
“Following a five-month stay in the port of Pago Pago, American Samoa, the 580-foot motor vessel Wise Honest, a 17,061-ton, single-hull bulk carrier ship connected to US sanctions violations, departed under tow Monday,” the coast guard said in a press release published on its website Tuesday evening.
“This action comes after an investigation by the Department of Justice and the sale of the ship in a Southern District of New York Federal Court-directed auction,” it said, without elaborating on who bought the vessel and for what price.
By Choi He-suk and news reports (email@example.com