U.S. adds 2 North firms on blacklist

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U.S. adds 2 North firms on blacklist

Two more North Korean firms were blacklisted by the U.S. government yesterday for their involvement in the management of slush funds to prop up the state leadership.

The U.S. Department of Treasury designated North Korea’s Korea Daesong Bank and Korea Daesong General Trading Corporation for being owned or controlled by the secretive Office 39 of North Korea’s Workers’ Party.

“Korea Daesong Bank and Korea Daesong General Trading Corporation are key components of Office 39’s financial network supporting North Korea’s illicit and dangerous activities,” said Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey in a statement.

With the announcement, the Treasury Department disclosed the addresses, phone numbers and e-mail addresses for the Korea Daesong Bank and Korea Daesong General Trading, which are regarded as part of North Korea’s biggest industrial group.

Office 39 is a secretive North Korean government bureau that has been known to have branches and networks across the nation and abroad to manage slush funds for the communist state’s leadership, the Treasury said. It is also responsible for earning foreign currency for top government officials in North Korea through illicit means, such as counterfeiting U.S. currency and trafficking narcotics.

The Treasury Department has said Office 39 has also been involved in the procurement of luxury goods for North Korea as well as operating poppy farms with means to produce and distribute opium and heroin to neighboring China and South Korea.

The Treasury Department’s move follows an August decision to add Office 39 to the financial blacklist, saying that the office had been involved in a failed attempt to smuggle two Italian-made luxury yachts into North Korea to be used by Kim Jong-il.

“Any assets of the designated entities that are within U.S. jurisdiction are frozen and U.S. citizens are prohibited from conducting financial or commercial transactions with these entities,” the statement said.

The action was taken pursuant to a U.S. Executive Order that imposes sanctions on individuals and entities facilitating North Korean arms trafficking and illicit economic activities.

By Christine Kim [christine.kim@joongang.co.kr]
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