The United States Department of the Treasury on Monday (local time) imposed sanctions on three North Korean officials, Choe Ryong Hae, the director of the Workers’ Party’s Organization and Guidance Department (OGD), Jong Kyong Thaek, the minister of State Security (MSS), and Pak Kwang Ho, the director of the party’s Propaganda and Agitation Department (PAD). “Treasury is sanctioning senior North Korean officials who direct departments that perpetrate the regime’s brutal state-sponsored censorship activities, human rights violations and abuses,” Treasury said. “Today, in commemoration of International Human Rights Day, the Department of the Treasury has added three North Korean persons to the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons list,” State Department deputy spokesperson Robert Palladino also said in a statement. “Human rights abuses in North Korea remain among the worst.”
The issue of human rights violations is the Achilles’ heel of North Korea. Observers in Washington say that the Trump administration’s decision to impose sanctions on Choe, who is seen as the No. 2 official in the regime, is not only aimed at pressuring the North but should be seen as a move to prepare for a possible breakdown of denuclearization negotiations, as it clearly demonstrates Washington’s firm stance that it cannot lift sanctions, something that North Korea has been strongly demanding. Speculation is also mounting over the decision’s impact on the holding of a second Trump-Kim meeting.
“The latest decision was made as part of an administrative action in accordance with the submission of a regular report on human rights, but considering the current deadlock in negotiations, it should be also seen as reflecting the Trump administration’s skeptical views about the North’s denuclearization,” said Washington’s diplomatic source.
The Department of the Treasury clearly stated that “Choe Ryong Hae is reportedly seen as the ‘Number Two’ official with control over the party, government, and military. The OGD is a powerful body of the North Korean regime, and is instrumental in implementing censorship policies.”
Jeong-Hun Park firstname.lastname@example.org