US Sanctions N. Korean Officials for Human Rights Abuses

The United States blacklisted seven North Korean officials and three government entities Thursday, saying they had engaged in human rights abuses that were “among the worst in the world.”

The State Department and Treasury imposed economic sanctions on officials in Pyongyang’s military security, labor and diplomatic outposts, as well as forced labor operations in foreign countries where North Korean soldiers are required to work for free while their wages are sent back to the financially beleaguered government.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the “sanctions target the North Korean military and regime officials engaged in flagrant abuses of human rights. We also are targeting North Korean financial facilitators who attempt to keep the regime afloat with foreign currency earned through forced labor operations.”

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the human rights abuses also included extrajudicial killings, torture, prolonged arbitrary detention, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence inside the country.

“Many of the country’s human rights abuses underwrite the regime’s weapons program,” she said, “including forced labor in the form of mass mobilizations, re-education through labor camps, and overseas labor contracts. Thousands of North Koreans are sent abroad every year to work in slavelike conditions, earning revenue for the regime.”

Nauert also said “the regime’s efforts to restrict North Koreans’ freedom of movement, right to leave their country and access to information reach far beyond its sovereign boundaries. The government deploys security officials on assignments overseas to monitor the activities of North Koreans abroad and to forcibly repatriate individuals seeking asylum abroad.”

U.N. report

The U.S. report came as Tomas Ojea Quintana, the U.N. special human rights rapporteur for North Korea, released a similar report concluding that there were “patterns of grave violations” of human rights in the reclusive communist country. Pyongyang has kept him from personal observation of human rights in the country, but he said he had spoken with people who have witnessed abuses there.

However, the U.N. official cautioned that the world body’s repeated imposition of sanctions against North Korea aiming at blocking its nuclear weapons development “can have a devastating impact on the civilian population.”

He called for the world to have “constructive engagement” with North Korea, even while acknowledging such advice “may not be welcomed with open arms.”

The latest U.S. condemnation of the regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un came as President Donald Trump was nearing the start of a five-nation Asia trip in early November, including visits to South Korea, China and Japan. Trump is planning wide-ranging talks with leaders in the region about North Korea’s continued defiance of the U.N. dictates against further nuclear and ballistic missile tests.


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