The United States stepped up efforts to isolate North Korea on Wednesday, imposing sanctions on leader Kim Jong Un and 10 other senior officials for human rights abuses.
Wednesday’s move by the U.S. Treasury Department marks the first time that Kim, hereditary ruler of North Korea since his father died in 2011, has been sanctioned personally, and the first time sanctions have been imposed on North Korea officials for human rights abuses.
“Under Kim Jong Un, North Korea continues to inflict intolerable cruelty and hardship on millions of its own people, including extrajudicial killings, forced labor, and torture,” Adam Szubin, acting under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a statement.
The blacklist also covers officials at the Ministry of State Security and the Ministry of People’s Security, agencies which run North Korea’s vast system of political prison camps, labor camps and related interrogation centers that the United States and rights experts say house some 120,000 political prisoners.
North Korean propaganda agencies are also covered by the sanctions, which freeze property designated individuals have within U.S. jurisdiction and ban U.S. citizens from doing business with them.
“Through most of the long history of the international community’s engagement with North Korea, the horrific human rights abuses committed by the regime have been known but not necessarily been central to how we have engaged,” said a senior Obama administration official.
“And the Obama Administration, over the last several years, has been working very hard to change that,” the official told reporters on a conference call after the sanctions were announced.
Activists have long pushed Washington to make human rights a stronger focus of U.S. diplomatic efforts with North Korea, which for two decades have largely focused on military threats, particularly Pyongyang’s expanding nuclear weapons and missile programs.
Full story: rfa.org
By Paul Eckert
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