South Korea has imposed unilateral sanctions on 18 North Koreans, prohibiting any financial transactions between them and its own citizens in a bid to aid the international effort to dry up Pyongyang’s illegal cash flows.
The sanctioned individuals are all directly affiliated with North Korean banks.
South Korean Unification Ministry Spokesperson Baik Tae-Hyun said: “We expect this to encourage people to avoid problematic transactions with North Korea and pay close attention to North Korea-related transactions in general, so that it will contribute to blocking North Korea’s main sources of foreign exchange and its developing of weapons of mass destruction.”
According to an official government announcement on the Interior Ministry’s website, the 18 individuals are all high ranking employees who have been linked to North Korea’s nuclear and missile development program.
A government minister told Reuters: “They’re high-ranking employees who have been linked to North Korea’s nuclear and missile development programme as well as the North’s foreign exchange procurement efforts.”
It is hoped the new sanctions will aid efforts to limit the secretive communist state’s arms research.
Those named were: Kang Min, Ko Chol Man, Ku Ja Hyong, Kim Kyong Il, Kim Tong Chol, Kim Sang Ho, Kim Jong Man, Kim Hyok Chol, Ri Un Song, Ri Chun Song, Ri Chun Hwan, Mun Kyong Hwan, Park Mun Il, Pak Bong Nam, Pang Su Nam, Pae Won Uk, Chu Hyok and Choe Sok Min.
According to the announcement 14 of those named were based in China, two in Libya while the remaining two were based in Russia.
The sanctions herald the arrival of President Trump in South Korea on Monday, although they are expected to have little impact, and some suggest the measures were timed to coincide with the US leader’s visit.
Kim Yesug, a peace activist, said: “The right answer is for North Korea and the US to take actions at the same time. There have already been discussions on such a process. We’d like to tell President Donald Trump to take a step in such a direction to bring real peace to the Korean Peninsula.”
Trump is expected to discuss North Korea’s nuclear and missile programme at length with government officials while in South Korea.
However, when asked about the timing of the announcement, government officials denied it was tied to the president’s visit to Seoul.