Iranian newspapers launched savage attacks Tuesday on the South Korean ambassador after he visited a private hospital Sunday and donated 2,000 Covid masks.
Javan newspaper affiliated to the Revolutionary Guards, called the ambassador Yun Kang-hyeon’s action “cheap and shameless” on its frontpage, reflecting anger at South Korean banks holding up billions in payments owed to Iran due to fear of punitive United States action.
The Persian word the paper used means 'rotten' or 'putrid'.
While several papers, and many prominent citizens, criticized Yun for insensitivity, Javan in a commentary condemned "a conspiracy" targeting the "honor of a nation." The newspaper insisted that "expulsion of the putrid ambassador of South Korea" would be an insufficient response to such "shamelessness."
"How many million dollars are you charging the Iranian people for each mask?" Javan asked.
Vatan-e Emrouz, another principlist newspaper, used a headline "Charity of Thieves" on its front page alongside a photograph of ambassador and a box of donated masks. Principlist media also slammed Atieh hospital, one of the most expensive private hospital in Tehran, for accepting the gift.
Two Korean banks are holding billions owed to Iran in payment for oil shipments supplied before United States president Donald Trump in May 2019 extended US threats to take action against any third party buying Iranian oil or dealing with its financial sector. South Korea stopped buying Iranian oil, and despite entreaties from Tehran has not released the assets.
Iran foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh Monday called the donations of masks “a joke” and demanded South Korea unfreeze Iran's assets, which have been estimated at $7 billion.
Iran's foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said October 2 that that the US should make a goodwill gesture − before talks resume to revive Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – by ‘unfreezing’ $10 billion in Iranian funds. This amounted to a request for Washington to state it would take no punitive action against a named third party or parties transferring money owed to Tehran, which could include payments owed by South Korea.
In a tweet Monday, the South Korean embassy listed its donations to Iran since the beginning of the Covid pandemic, including 1 million doses of AstraZeneca in October, 1 million masks in June, PCR test kits worth $2 million in May, and $1 million-worth of medicine for rare medical conditions in February 2020.
Jamshid Barzgar, a London-based journalist, said all the criticism of the South Korean ambassador was “populistic” and motivated simply by wanting to have Iran’s assets unfrozen. He told Iran International it was “selective” to ignore Korea’s recent donation of 1 million vaccine doses and “blow up out of proportion” the 2,000 masks.
After a letter from Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei September 6, President Ebrahim Raisi (Raeesi) instructed ministers not to allow imports from South Korea’s LG and Samsung. While Khamenei framed the letter as a way to boost local manufacturers, state media also described the move as a diplomatic message to South Korea.