S Korea implements new sanctions amid Pyongyang threats

They mark the Yoon Suk Yeol administration’s 15th set of unilateral sanctions against the North.
By Lee Jeong-Ho for RFA
Seoul, South Korea
S Korea implements new sanctions amid Pyongyang threats South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeok presides over a cabinet meeting at the Presidential Office in Seoul, South Korea on Jan. 16, 2024.
Yonhap via Reuters

South Korea has imposed a new set of unilateral sanctions against North Korea, marking the first of such measures this year, as Pyongyang intensifies its pressure campaign against Seoul.

Seoul has identified various entities allegedly involved in aiding ship-to-ship transfers and the smuggling of oil in and out of North Korea, the South’s foreign ministry said in a statement Wednesday.

The new sanctions target 11 ships, two individuals, and three institutions for their alleged involvement in Pyongyang’s “illegal maritime activities that support North Korea’s nuclear and missile development,” according to the statement.

The ministry noted that the ships, in particular, have breached various United Nations Security Council resolutions, including the resolutions that prohibit transferring items from North Korean ships and restrictions on the supply of refined petroleum products.

Under the latest measures, the designated ships — including the Nam Dae Bong, New Konk, Unica, and Sing Ming Yang 888 — will not be permitted to dock at South Korean ports. The ships must also obtain entry permission from the managing authority before entering South Korea’s territorial waters.

In addition, South Korean nationals must seek prior approval from either the Financial Services Commission or the Governor of the Bank of Korea to conduct financial or foreign exchange transactions with individuals or institutions targeted by the independent sanctions.

The New Konk and Unica have already been sanctioned by the European Union in 2022.

The individuals sanctioned are Park Kyong Ran from Baeksul Trading, and Min Myong Hak from Ri Sang Trading, accused of involvement in importing used ships and refined oil into North Korea, as well as facilitating the dispatch of North Korean workers abroad.

The sanctioned institutions, including Mangang Trading, Ri Sang Trading, and Yu Ah Trading, were also allegedly involved in activities such as oil smuggling via ship-to-ship transfers, coal smuggling, and the importation of used ships, the ministry said.

The measures show Seoul’s “strong resolve to discourage North Korea’s illicit nuclear and missile development by cutting off its continuous illegal funding and procurement of materials through maritime activities,” the ministry said. 

“We intend to continue imposing sanctions not only on ships involved in ship-to-ship transfers but also on individuals and institutions engaged in the illegal maritime transfer network.”

The sanctions measure came as North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un has pledged to amend the country’s constitution to declare South Korea as Pyongyang’s “primary and immutable enemy,” a decision that could further escalate tensions on the Korean peninsula and beyond.

During a speech at the Supreme People’s Assembly Monday, Kim articulated the need to revise the North Korean constitution, proposing the idea to include provisions for the “occupation, subjugation, and annexation” of South Korea into North Korea in the event of a conflict on the Korean peninsula. 

South Korea’s new sanctions represent the Yoon Suk Yeol administration’s 15th set of unilateral sanctions against North Korea. The administration has been implementing a hardline Pyongyang policy to curb its nuclear ambition.

Edited by Taejun Kang and Mike Firn.


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