Moon levies his first sanctions on Pyongyang

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Moon levies his first sanctions on Pyongyang

Seoul imposed its first set of unilateral sanctions on North Korea since President Moon Jae-in took office, sending a symbolic message to the Kim Jong-un regime as the Blue House prepares to host U.S. President Donald Trump on a state visit this week.

The Moon administration, which seeks to mend strained ties with the North mainly through dialogue and reconciliation, hasn’t drafted a single set of unilateral sanctions against Pyongyang since coming to power last May through a snap election, though it openly endorsed sanctions from the United Nations Security Council after each North Korean provocation.

In contrast, the Trump government, which emphasizes pressure in dealing with Pyongyang, has imposed separate sanctions on the North five times this year.

News that Seoul might get in tune with Washington in time for Trump’s visit to Seoul tomorrow and the day after surfaced last Friday, when the Blue House said in a statement that its National Security Council “had been discussing” the move, without explaining further.

Seoul’s sanctions aren’t expected to have much tangible effect because they all target North Korean bank representatives already listed by the U.S. Department of Treasury; each bank has also been added onto the UN Security Council’s list.

Nonetheless, the measure is a rare move for Moon, a strong believer in inter-Korean cooperation, who officially asked Pyongyang for dialogue twice and invited the country to join the upcoming PyeongChang Winter Olympics in South Korea next February. The North has so far cold-shouldered the offers.

Moon also apparently wanted to curry favor with Trump, who didn’t shy away from criticizing the left-leaning president’s North Korea policy last September, when he took to Twitter to say: “South Korea is finding, as I have told them, that their talk of appeasement with North Korea will not work, they only understand one thing!”

South Korea’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said the sanctions tackle 18 people in total, all North Korean nationals who work abroad.

The 18 people are among a group of 26 whom the Treasury Department added to its unilateral sanctions list on Sept. 26.

On why Seoul wasn’t sanctioning the eight others, a Foreign Ministry official said on the condition of anonymity that the government had “selectively chosen individuals whose reason to believe they were engaged in illegal activities was clear.”

South Korean nationals who violate the ban on doing business with the designated North Koreans will be subject to a maximum three-year jail term or fined as much as 300 million won ($269,100).

The 18 North Korean nationals on Seoul’s unilateral sanctions list are: Pak Mun-il, Kang Min, Kim Sang-ho, Pae Won-uk, all officials of Korea Daesong Bank residing in China; Kim Jong-man and Kim Hyok-chol, officials of the Korea United Development Bank, who live in China; Ri Un-song, who works for the same Korea United Development Bank but lives in Russia; Pak Bong-nam and Pang Su-nam, representatives of IL SIM International Bank in China; Mun Kyong-hwan of the Bank of East Land in China; Chu Hyok, who works for the Foreign Trade Bank of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and lives in Russia; Kim Kyong-il and Ku Ja-hyong, who work for the aforementioned bank but live in Libya; as well as Kim Tong-chol, Ko Chol-man, Ri Chun-hwan, Ri Chun-song and Choe Sok-min, all from the same bank, who live in China.

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