Kim Jong-un’s sanctionsThe United States has taken a strong measure against North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The U.S. government on Wednesday put his name on the list of sanctions after singling him out as a person responsible for wide-spread human rights abuses in the country. Washington’s first-ever decision to include the North’s “Supreme Leader” in the sanctions list on charges of human rights violations could possibly lead to the deterioration of Washington-Pyongyang relations as well as Seoul-Pyongyang ties.
With only six months left in office, U.S. President Barack Obama took the action in accordance with the law on reinforcing sanctions on North Korea, which took effect in February. After the State Department reported to the Congress a detailed list of those accountable for human rights abuses in line with the law enacted after the North’s 4th nuclear test and long-range missile launch, the Treasury Department put the names of 15 officials, including Kim, and eight government organizations on the list.
North Korea’s human rights abuse is nothing new. The U.S. government has been classifying it as the most repressive country in its annual report on human rights conditions. The United Nations Commission on Human Rights also has accused the North of human rights violations through its Commission of Inquiry. As the sanctions mostly deal with a freezing of Kim and others’ assets in the U.S. and a ban on their entry into the U.S., they could not be that effective.
Nonetheless, Washington’s determined message will most likely pressure the recalcitrant regime in Pyongyang. North Korea could vehemently resent it after regarding it as an insult to the “foremost leader.” We cannot rule out the possibility of the North conducting another nuke test or missile launch in a vicious cycle of Pyongyang’s countermeasures triggering more pressure from Washington.
The U.S. administration says it took the step separate from the North’s nuclear and missile provocations. However, considering that the Congress passed the tougher sanctions law as a reaction to the North’s fourth nuke test, it all originated with Pyongyang’s nuclear development. Yet we can hardly deny that human rights issues are the North’s Achilles heel. If human rights are an issue of universal values for human kind, nuclear weapons development is a matter of peace — and non-proliferation — which Uncle Sam cannot compromise on.
Kim must consider his country’s situation before resorting to extreme counteraction. The more he opts for retaliations, the more hardships his people face. He must make a wise decision.
JoongAng Ilbo, July 8, Page 30