After an executive order by President Obama the US will begin sanctions on 10 North Korean officials along with three government entities in response to the Sony hacks.
The sanctions are the first part of a response against the Sony attack, which the US government attributes to North Korea. Obama called the breach “an act of cybervandalism.”
According to the White House Press Office, the use of sanctions “are the first aspect of our response” against North Korea. The FBI blamed Pyongyang unequivocally for the Sony hack on Dec. 19 based on a technical analysis of the attack.
As Reuters notes, prior to Obama’s executive order, the US only sanctioned “41 companies and entities and 22 individuals” relating to North Korea for their involvement with the country’s nuclear program.
According to a press release from the US Treasury Department, the sanctions will escalate “financial pressure on the Government of North Korea, including its agencies, instrumentalities, and controlled entities, by authorizing targeted sanctions that would deny designated persons access to the US financial system and prohibit US persons from engaging in transactions or dealings with it.”
The sanctions will currently target ten North Korean government representatives alongside three government agencies: the Reconnaissance General Bureau (RGB), a military intelligence unit; the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation (KOMID), Pyongyang’s primary arms dealer; and the Korea Tangun Trading Corporation, a company which buys technology for the country’s defence research.
Of the 10 North Korean officials, seven of them are currently employed by KOMID. None of the ten officials belong to the country’s top leadership.
Despite some doubt over whether or not the sanctions will have much direct impact on North Korea, which is already so far removed from the world economic system, geopolitical commentator @ZeddRebel pointed out on Twitter that the sanctions on KOMID could have a worldwide effect:
We’re all keen to make snarky tweets…but I’m pretty sure stopping Kim Jong-un from selling guns to Iran, Syria, and Sudan is sound policy.
— Zeddonymous (@ZeddRebel) January 2, 2015
Two of the North Korean officials now under sanctions were KOMID officials operating in Syria in support of the Assad regime. One of the officials under sanctions is a KOMID representative in Iran and an additional official under sanctions is a KOMID representative in Russia working with individuals from Sudan, whose government is also under international sanctions. An additional two sanctioned officials are KOMID representatives representing North Korean interests throughout southern Africa.
According to Reuters, senior administration officials said that the entities and individuals targeted by the sanctions were not directly responsible for the Sony hack, although the RGB is thought to be linked to Pyongyang’s cyber warfare units.
North Korea has been under some form of sanctions by the US since the 1950s, which have only tightened over the past decade because of the country’s nuclear program. Despite this, North Korea has has managed to conduct three nuclear weapons tests since 2006.
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