The State Department of the U.S. has announced its sanctions promoted by President Barack Obama upon the North Korean dictator and 14 of his officials. A 5-page report was issued where Kim Jong-un and his senior officials are held accountable for killings, torture, censorship and forced labor.

It is the first time a human rights sanction on specific North Korean officials takes force through the U.S. Treasury Department, which proceeded to forbid any transaction between American citizens and the listed individuals, while also freezing their financial assets.

Kim Jong-un addresses the audience at the WPG
North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Un is expecting to further consolidate his control over a country that has grown increasingly unique over their pursuit of nuclear weapons. Image Credit: IB Times

Although the Obama administration has been aware of the ongoing human rights violations perpetrated by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), perhaps these new sanctions are a response due to Kim Jong-un’s pursue of nuclear armament.

The reason behind the sanctions

According to the chairman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Victor Cha, the sanctions are meant as a mean of pressuring the North Korean leader to take part in negotiations, especially with an expectation of Hillary Clinton becoming president. Cha stated that the best course of action is “to basically follow the Iran template, which was to put as much pressure as they could on the regime with the hope that they would ultimately have to go back to the talks.”

Cha also warned about the short term effects of the sanctions, which may incite a reaction from Kim Jong-un, an erratic leader known for executing anyone ranging from common citizens to family members.

Wednesday’s sanctions display the first time ever that Kim Jong-un has been personally sanctioned by the U.S. since his father died in 2011. Kim has joined the U.S. State Department’s blacklist along the presidents of Syria, Zimbabwe, and Belarus. Among the senior officials, most are from the Ministry of State Security and the Ministry of People’s Security, the ones responsible for administering the nation’s labor camps, prisons and interrogation chambers. According to U.S. intelligence, there are at least 120,000 political prisoners within the DPRK’s cells.

The sanctions are a result of the efforts of several years in conjunction with other nations to correctly assess North Korea’s widespread violations of human rights. One of the sourced documents is the 2014 UN Commission of Inquiry report, which included cases of starvation, psychological and physical torture, murder and much more. Most of these acts occurred in North Korea’s prisons and forced labor camps.

The latest report of North Korea’s oppressive system

It is reported by the U.S. State Department that there are no independent media in North Korea. Only government sources of information are tolerated, as every content related to news and entertainment is reviewed so it reflects the DPRK’s ideology. This is also true for the educational content, and basically for any method of being influenced by any source.

DPRK officials take steps into modifying television and radio devices so that they are only able to transmit material native to North Korea. Any type of overseas material is deemed as illegal. Viewing a foreign movie may even lead to a death sentence, the report reads.

It appears that North Korea’s political system does follow the “supreme leader” act, as Kim Jong-un is viewed as the absolute authority in every matter, especially regarding the state, the ruling party, and the military. In most cases, the individuals accused of treason or of having “political purposes” are disappeared and killed in secrecy.

North Koreans are urged to report and tell on others, specifically on the acts of watching and distributing foreign media. This particular crime is taken very seriously, in part because it was the National Defense Commission who issued the proclamation. The National Defense Commission is composed of ten individuals, with Kim Jong-un as its chairman. It is the organization with the highest power in the whole country, which has also seen its share of terror and cruelty since many of its members have been executed by the young leader.

Then there’s the Organization and Guidance Department of the Korean Worker’s Party (OGD). It is in charge of the internal security agencies and efforts, while also being the responsible of approving the practices that violate human rights. It was an organization conceived by North Korea’s founder and grandfather to Kim Jong-un, Kim Il-sung, who called the OGD a “doctor” and the propaganda department its “medicine.” Every time an authority does not follow the official message, the OGD sends an overseer to submit the accused person to a “self-criticism session.” He then may be subjected to “ideological discipline.”

Is Kim Jong-un an international threat?

Although North Korea has committed several human rights violations, what seems to be most concerning are its threats to international security. 2016 has seen several missile launches, and even if Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe does not see a feasible threat on North Korea’s recent tests, he called for further actions against the regime. Back in June, South Korea performed U.S.-backed military exercises, as there are at least 28,500 U.S. soldiers stationed in South Korea.

Kim Jong-un is known for constantly threatening the U.S., perhaps in a childish manner. On April, a Musudan ballistic missile was launched as a test and to commemorate Kim Il-sung’s birthday. Shortly after the launch, Kim Jong-un stated that his country “can tip new-type intercontinental ballistic rockets with more powerful nuclear warheads and keep any cesspool of evils in the earth, including the U.S. mainland, within our striking range.” But this has been refuted by U.S. security officials.

Source: U.S. State Department