S Korea issues unilateral sanctions on 8 N Korean individuals

They bring the total to 83 individuals and 53 institutions under the current Yoon administration.
By Lee Jeong-Ho for RFA
2023.12.26
Seoul, South Korea
S Korea issues unilateral sanctions on 8 N Korean individuals A Hwasong-18 intercontinental ballistic missile is launched during what North Korea says is a drill at an unknown location Dec. 18, 2023 in this picture released by the Korean Central News Agency.
KCNA via Reuters

South Korea imposed unilateral sanctions on North Korean individuals involved in illicit financing of the country’s high-stake nuclear programs that have posed threats to the United States and its regional allies.

New sanctions target eight individuals, including the Director of the Reconnaissance General Bureau Ri Chang-ho, and the CEO of a company called Beijing New Technology Park Yong-han, South Korea’s foreign ministry said in a statement Wednesday. The ministry asserted that the individuals were actively involved in generating income for supporting Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs through what it described as “illicit trading and cyber operations.”

The individuals were involved in “foreign currency acquisition, technology theft, and the trading of sanctioned materials, including weapons,” the statement added.

A former North Korean diplomat stationed in China, Yoon Chol, for instance, was allegedly involved in the trading of Lithium-6 – a mineral that falls under the United Nations sanctioned items list for North Korea, it claimed. 

Under South Korean regulations, South Korean nationals must obtain permission from the governor of the Bank of Korea or the Financial Services Commission if they wish to engage in financial transactions with sanctioned individuals.

The U.S. ally’s latest sanction marks the 14th time the current Yoon Suk Yeol administration has imposed sanctions on North Korea, bringing the total to 83 individuals and 53 institutions since October last year. 

“We have consistently made it clear that there will be consequences for North Korean provocations,” the ministry statement said. “We will continue to closely coordinate with the international community, including the United States and Japan.”

South Korea’s announcement comes as North Korea is expected to determine its major policy direction for 2024 this week, where it is likely to put an increased focus on further boosting its nuclear capabilities.

Last week, North Korea fired its latest solid-fueled ICBM, the Hwasong-18, with the launch reaching a maximum altitude of about 6,500 kilometers (4,040 miles) and flying a distance of around 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) before hitting its target off its eastern coast.

Although the test was conducted at a high angle, it still represented a potential threat to the U.S. If launched at a lower trajectory, this missile may be capable of reaching the U.S. mainland.

The International Atomic Energy Agency announced on Dec. 22 that that a new nuclear reactor is apparently operational at North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear complex, suggesting the country’s acquisition of additional means to obtain plutonium for nuclear weapons. 

The nuclear watchdog’s discovery came as the North’s official state media reported Kim Jong Un emphasizing the country’s implementation of its “assertive response strategy,” which includes the potential for a nuclear attack in retaliation against the allies. 

Meanwhile, the leader’s sister Kim Yo Jong issued a fresh warning that the allies should consider how Pyongyang might respond to what it perceives as their hostile actions.

Edited by Elaine Chan and Taejun Kang.

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