Human rights abuses in North Korea are among the worst in the world. Numerous reports -- by the United Nations, non-governmental organizations, and the United States -- have documented the enormous suffering of the North Korean people as a direct result of their government’s widespread and systematic human rights violations.
State Department Spokesperson John Kirby outlined some of those abuses at a press briefing:
“Extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrest and detention, forced labor, and torture. Many of these abuses are committed in political prison camps where an estimated 80 to 120,000 individuals are detained, including children and the family members of the accused.”
As part of U.S. efforts to promote accountability, the State Department recently issued a new report on human rights and censorship in North Korea, also known as the DPRK, which identifies North Korean officials and entities associated with these actions.
In conjunction with the report, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control imposed sanctions on eleven North Korean officials, including leader Kim Jong Un, and also sanctioned five entities involved in the North Korean people’s horrific repression. Other officials designated include Choe Pu Il, Minister of Public Security; Choe Chang Pong, Director of the Ministry of Public Security Investigations Bureau; and Kang Song Nam, Third Bureau Director in the Ministry of State Security.
It is the first time the U.S. Government has officially named individuals involved in the worst aspects of the regime’s repression. The complementary designations mean that if any of the sanctioned individuals have assets in the U.S., they are frozen, and that American citizens are prevented from doing business with them. The action represents the start of an ongoing process to identify and name persons involved in rights violations in North Korea.
State Department Spokesperson Kirby said that sanctions can have real financial costs: they “reverberate around the world, and … can have an impact on the way other countries and international bodies consider doing business.” There is also a power, he noted, in naming the individuals responsible for such cruelty.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power said such efforts “send a clear message – not just to the senior leaders, but also prison camp managers, and guards, censors, secret police, interrogators, and persecutors of defectors – the world is documenting your abuses, and they will not be forgotten.”