NATIONAL

S. Korea’s unilateral sanctions are ‘symbolic’

By Jung Min-kyung
  • Published : Nov 6, 2017 - 18:58
  • Updated : Nov 6, 2017 - 18:58
South Korea’s latest unilateral sanctions against North Korea unveiled Monday are more symbolic than practical and appear to be timed for US President Donald Trump’s visit here, experts said. 

(Yonhap)

The Moon Jae-in administration blacklisted a total of 18 North Korean individuals allegedly contributing to Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile development program as part of its own sanctions against the regime.

The move came a day before Trump’s scheduled arrival here Tuesday for a two-day tour, which includes a bilateral meeting with President Moon.

“Those individuals have worked overseas, representing North Korean banks and getting involved in supplying money needed to develop weapons of mass destruction,” a Foreign Ministry official said.

Key managers and ranking officials behind North Korean banks in China and Russia were the main subjects of the sanctions. Kang Min, representative of Korea Daesong Bank in China; Ri Un-song, representative of Korea United Development Bank in Russia; and Ku Ja-hyong, chief representative of the Foreign Trade Bank of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, were among those blacklisted.

Despite its aim to put a strain on North Korea’s economic activities, the latest sanctions are viewed by many here as having no practical impact as all inter-Korean transactions have been banned since 2010. In September, the US Treasury Department already listed the 18 individuals in its sanctions.

Seoul also excluded North Korea’s central bank as a target of its unilateral sanctions, although Washington included it on its list. The financial institution is known for its involvement in delivering wages to North Korean workers at the now-shuttered joint industrial complex in Kaesong and was suspected of smuggling gold into the South from the zone in 2006.

The South Korean government kept the announcement “low-key” by posting it on the government’s official gazette and delivering it via text messages to reporters, rather than holding a press briefing to discuss the matter.

“The sanctions are the South Korean government’s message to the US that there is no gap between their bilateral alliance and approach toward North Korea,” said Go Myong-hyun, an analyst at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies.

“People are saying that Seoul’s unilateral sanctions are ‘symbolic’ because the institutions which the blacklisted individuals work for have been already mentioned in the United Nations Security Council Resolutions -- the unilateral sanction can be simply viewed as a detailed elaboration of the UN sanctions” he added, while pointing out that the role of such unilateral sanctions is to fill in the weak areas of UN resolutions.

The Unification Ministry here explained that the goal of the sanctions isto block foreign currencies that can boost Pyongyang’s weapons program.

“The sanctions are expected to help raise awareness about risks from trade with North Korea. They are also likely to encourage the international community to avert dubious business with the North and to be cautious about such trade,” said ministry spokesman Baik Tae-hyun during a press briefing Monday, when asked whether the sanctions are merely “symbolic.”

Meanwhile, the North labeled the latest set of UNSC sanctions as “constituted genocide,” in a statement addressed to the UN in Geneva last week by the North Korean mission.

“Today the US-led racket of brutal sanctions and pressure against (North Korea) constitutes contemporary human rights violation and genocide,” said the statement.

“(The sanctions) threatens and impedes the enjoyment by the people of (North Korea) of their human rights in all sectors,” it added.

Seoul’s new sanctions are in line with the UN resolutions implemented after North Korea’s sixth and largest nuclear test in September. The test triggered the US to draw and impose unilateral sanctions on the North amid an exchange of bellicose rhetoric between Trump and Pyongyang.

By Jung Min-kyung (mkjung@heraldcorp.com)