The Cable

U.S. Sanctions Kim Jong Un For First Time for Human Rights Abuses

For the first time, the United States slapped economic sanctions on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for what U.S. officials called “notorious abuses of human rights.” The move is expected to elicit an angry reaction from the nuclear-armed country and comes just days after the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, called on countries to enforce sanctions against the Hermit Kingdom after its latest ballistic missile test.

This undated picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on June 23, 2016 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (C) inspecting a test of the surface-to-surface medium long-range strategic ballistic missile Hwasong-10 at an undisclosed location in North Korea.
The Musudan -- also known as the Hwasong-10 -- has a theoretical range of anywhere between 2,500 and 4,000 kilometres (1,550 to 2,500 miles). / AFP / KCNA VIA KNS / KCNA / South Korea OUT / REPUBLIC OF KOREA OUT   ---EDITORS NOTE--- RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO/KCNA VIA KNS" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
THIS PICTURE WAS MADE AVAILABLE BY A THIRD PARTY. AFP CAN NOT INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, LOCATION, DATE AND CONTENT OF THIS IMAGE. THIS PHOTO IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY AFP.  /         (Photo credit should read KCNA/AFP/Getty Images)
This undated picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on June 23, 2016 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (C) inspecting a test of the surface-to-surface medium long-range strategic ballistic missile Hwasong-10 at an undisclosed location in North Korea. The Musudan -- also known as the Hwasong-10 -- has a theoretical range of anywhere between 2,500 and 4,000 kilometres (1,550 to 2,500 miles). / AFP / KCNA VIA KNS / KCNA / South Korea OUT / REPUBLIC OF KOREA OUT ---EDITORS NOTE--- RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO/KCNA VIA KNS" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS THIS PICTURE WAS MADE AVAILABLE BY A THIRD PARTY. AFP CAN NOT INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, LOCATION, DATE AND CONTENT OF THIS IMAGE. THIS PHOTO IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY AFP. / (Photo credit should read KCNA/AFP/Getty Images)

For the first time, the United States slapped economic sanctions on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for what U.S. officials called “notorious abuses of human rights.” The move is expected to elicit an angry reaction from the nuclear-armed country and comes just days after the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, called on countries to enforce sanctions against the Hermit Kingdom after its latest ballistic missile test.

“Under Kim Jong Un, North Korea continues to inflict intolerable cruelty and hardship on millions of its own people, including extrajudicial killings, forced labor, and torture,” the Treasury Department’s Acting Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Adam Szubin said in a statement.

The sanctions target a range of assets, including property under U.S. jurisdiction, and take aim at 10 other individuals as well, including Choe Pu II, head of the Ministry of People’s Security; Ri Song Choi, a counselor in the Ministry of People’s Security; and Kang Song Nam, bureau director at the Ministry of State Security.

“The Ministry of State Security engages in torture and inhumane treatment of detainees during interrogation and in detention centers,” said the Treasury Department in a statement. “This inhumane treatment includes beatings, forced starvation, sexual assault, forced abortions, and infanticide.”

North Korea, one of the most isolated countries in the world, has long been under economic sanctions for its nuclear program. But U.S. officials said this is the first time the country’s 30-odd-year old leader has been specifically targeted. Like his father, who died in 2011, Kim has not been shy about responding to western sanctions by testing nuclear weapons, launching ballistic missiles, or issuing bombastic threats against the United States and its regional allies South Korea and Japan.

The move follows a lengthy investigation by the State Department and Treasury and the passage earlier this year of a law that requires the executive branch to assess Kim’s culpability for human rights abuses in the country.

Getty Images

John Hudson is a senior reporter at Foreign Policy, where he covers diplomacy and national security issues in Washington. He has reported from several geopolitical hotspots, including Ukraine, Pakistan, Malaysia, China, and Georgia. Prior to joining FP, John covered politics and global affairs for the Atlantic magazine’s news blog, the Atlantic Wire. In 2008, he covered the August war between Russia and Georgia from Tbilisi and the breakaway region of Abkhazia. He has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, BBC, C-SPAN, Fox News radio, Al Jazeera, and other broadcast outlets. He has been with the magazine since 2013. @john_hudson

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