SEOUL: North Korea’s young leader Kim Jong-un, who was personally blacklisted by the United States over his alleged human rights abuses, has repeatedly shrugged off pressure by the international community while asserting absolute control over the reclusive state.
In his late 20s when he took over from his late father Kim Jong-il four and a half years ago, the younger Kim was considered untested, vulnerable and likely to be manipulated by senior figures.
But he has proved his mettle in dealing harshly—sometimes brutally—with any sign of dissent, even at the highest levels, while maintaining an aggressively provocative stance with the international community.
The latest move by the US marks the first time that Kim has been sanctioned personally, and the first linked to the systemic human rights abuses in the country, where between 80,000 and 120,000 prisoners languish in political prison camps.
“Under Kim Jong-un, North Korea continues to inflict intolerable cruelty and hardship on millions of its own people,” said Adam Szubin, the US Treasury’s acting under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.
The new blacklist, which also names 10 other top officials, follows a ramping up of United Nations sanctions on the country in the wake of a series of nuclear and missile tests this year.
But Kim has repeatedly shown he will not be cowed by international criticism or pressure, as he has carried out further weapons tests while cementing the personality cult that surrounds him at home.
In late June, Kim was named chairman of a new supreme governing commission, underlining the 33-year-old’s absolute control over every aspect of state policy in the isolated, nuclear-armed nation—including the country’s network of detention centers and labor camps, according to Washington.
After his father’s death, the young Kim was expected to initially rely on a coterie of powerful aides, including his uncle Jang Song-thaek.
But that expected tutelage was short-lived as Kim started to remove any potential challenges to his authority by executing Jang.
Other purges of high-ranking officials followed.