Seoul welcomes sanctions against Jong-un’s sister
The U.S. Treasury Department on Wednesday added seven senior officials of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party and two entities to its sanctions list because of their links to the regime’s human rights abuses and censorship.
This second round of sanctions included Kim Yo-jong, a vice director of the Propaganda and Agitation Department in the Workers Party, an agency described by the U.S. Treasury as being “responsible for both newspaper and broadcast censorship.”
On the same day, the U.S. State Department released its second report on North Korean human rights abuses, which include censorship, extrajudicial killings, forced labor, torture and prolonged arbitrary detention, as well as rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence.
Last July, Washington imposed the first set of sanctions for human rights violations and in an unprecedented move blacklisted leader Kim Jong-un for his role in his country’s rights abuses. The State Department also submitted the first biannual report on North Korea’s human rights abuses in accordance with the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act of 2016. The updated sanctions list by the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control listed Kim Yo-jong as being born on Sept. 26, 1989.
Also listed is Choe Hwi, also a vice director of the Propaganda and Agitation Department, who according to the U.S. State Department is responsible for maintaining “ideological purity” in the regime and “managing the general censorship functions.”
Kim Won-hong, North Korea’s minister of state security, was also added. The Ministry of State Security is already designated by the Treasury as being involved in the abuse or violation of human rights by the North Korean government, which includes the torture and inhumane treatment of detainees during interrogation and in its network of political prison camps.
Some of the forms of torture and inhumane treatment at these sites include beatings, forced starvation, sexual assault, forced abortions and infanticide.
Kim is accused of directing the abuses perpetrated by the ministry and “managing its day-to-day activities,” including in its political prison camp system, which holds an estimated 80,000 to 120,000 prisoners. Others listed include Min Byong-chol, a member of the Organization and Guidance Department of the Worker’s Party, dubbed the “angel of death” for his record of political inspections and purges, and Kim Il-nam, chief of the State Security Ministry’s South Hamgyong Province branch, who manages the Yodok concentration camp.
The two agencies added to its blacklist were North Korea’s Ministry of Labor and State Planning Commission. The Labor Ministry, according to the Treasury, is said to have forcibly allocated individuals to specific sectors, including the coal and mining industries, under the direction of the State Planning Commission.
According to the State Department report, “The two institutions work hand-in-hand to implement an economic system that relies on forced labor” in North Korea and is a “method of mobilizing and using forced labor for purposes of economic development.”
“Many of those compelled to participate in the system of forced labor are not compensated,” the report said, “creating a system of slave labor” that is jointly overseen by the commission and the Labor Ministry.
“Today’s action exposes individuals supporting the North Korean regime and underscores the U.S. government’s commitment to promoting accountability for serious human rights abuses and censorship in North Korea,” said John E. Smith, acting director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control.
The sanctions enable the freezing of any property or assets within U.S. jurisdiction of any person or entity on the list and can also prohibit financial transactions with American citizens.
South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Thursday that it “welcomes” this newest expansion to the U.S. blacklist of human rights abusers in North Korea and the latest State Department report which it said “reaffirms that North Korea’s human rights issue will be one of the major factors in the U.S. policy toward the North.”
“The measure is expected to raise international awareness of the grave human rights situation in North Korea,” said Cho June-hyuck, spokesman of the Foreign Ministry, urging Pyongyang to improve its rights situation in accordance with international calls.
BY SARAH KIM [email@example.com]