WASHINGTON D.C: The United States placed North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on its sanctions blacklist for the first time on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila), calling him directly responsible for a long list of serious human rights abuses.
US officials said Kim and 10 other top officials also blacklisted were behind widespread abuses including extrajudicial killings, forced labor and torture in the country’s system of prison camps for political detainees that has made North Korea “among the world’s most repressive countries.”
They also were responsible for harsh censorship of media, academic and cultural activities, including imprisoning people accused of viewing foreign films.
“Under Kim Jong-un, North Korea continues to inflict intolerable cruelty and hardship on millions of its own people, including extrajudicial killings, forced labor, and torture,” said Adam Szubin, Acting Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.
Treasury said that Kim, North Korea’s “Supreme Leader,” was responsible for abuses in his roles as head of the country’s Ministry of State Security and Ministry of People’s Security.
According to officials in Washington, the Ministry of State Security holds 80,000 to 120,000 prisoners in political prison camps where torture, execution, sexual assault, starvation, and slave labor are common.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of People’s Security overseen by Kim runs a network of police stations, detention centers and labor camps where suspects under interrogation “are systematically degraded, intimidated, and tortured,” the United States said.
Kim is “rather plainly ultimately responsible for the actions of his regime including its repressive policies,” a senior US official said, speaking anonymously.
But authorities in Washington for the first time identified other top officials directly involved in rights abuses, including Choe Pu Il, the Minister of People’s Security, Ri Song Chol, a senior official in the Ministry of People’s Security, and Kang Song Nam, a Bureau Director with the Ministry of State Security.
Another on the new sanctions list, Cho Yon Jun of the powerful Organization and Guidance Department, is in charge of enforcing loyalty to Kim, including executing those who defy his will, the senior US official said.
The sanctions were announced in parallel with the State Department’s release of a new report, which documents the abuses throughout the North Korean security apparatus and political prison camp system.
It is not the first time the United States has placed a head of state on a sanctions list. Previously sanctioned leaders include Saddam Hussein of Iraq, Charles Taylor of Liberia, and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.