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Overseas money shouldn't be funneled into Kim’s vault

Posted March. 18, 2016 07:25,   

Updated March. 18, 2016 07:29


On Wednesday, U.S. President Barack Obama issued an executive order imposing new sanctions on North Korea including a ban on North Korea’s sending its workers abroad. The key point of the order is that all property and interests in property in the United State of anyone who is engaged in, facilitated, or responsible for the exportation of workers from North Korea, including exportation to generate revenue for the Government of North Korea or the ruling Workers' Party. This measure, which was considered in the draft of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1720 but later excluded, has been included again by President Obama. The new executive order includes the “secondary boycott” clause, which can sanction individuals, entities and banks transacting with North Korea in the third countries. The Propaganda and Agitation Department of the North Korean Workers’ Party where Kim Yo Jong, younger sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, is a key figure is also subject to the sanctions.

The U.N. believes that over 50,000 North Korean workers work in China, Russia, African and the Middle East. They are exploited with low wages, long working hours and supervision by North Korean intelligence agents and the majority of their wages are seized by the regime. “North Korea is estimated to have earned 1.2 billion to 2.3 billion U.S. dollars in this way,” Marzuki Darusman, U.N. Special Rapporteur on human rights in North Korea, said in last October. North Korea is developing nuclear weapons and missiles and purchasing luxury goods for the Kim family with the hard-earned money from their “slave workers.”

North Korea’s exploitation of its workers abroad is a violation of the U.N. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights banning forced labor. The European Parliament adopted a resolution urging for the suspension of North Korea’s forced labor program in Jan. and the U.N. Human Rights Council is also preparing a resolution on North Korean human rights to include this before adoption. President Obama’s executive order is effective only in the U.S., which means that it is not binding in China and Russia. However, as the countries are bounded by the U.N. covenant and are members of the International Labor Organization, they should increase supervision to ensure that North Korean workers have appropriate labor conditions in compliance with international standards.

Regardless of the sanctions by the international community, Kim Jong Un has declared launching additional nuclear and long-range missiles. Now is the time to pull the reins to make the leader’s vault depleted.

한기흥기자 eligius@donga.com