(2nd LD) S. Korea blacklists scores of N. Koreans, entities linked to nuke, missile program
(ATTN: CLARIFIES 8th para)
SEOUL, Dec. 2 (Yonhap) -- South Korea unveiled a set of its own punitive measures against North Korea on Friday, blacklisting scores of people and entities suspected of supporting the regime's nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
The move came days after the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) unanimously adopted Resolution 2321 on Wednesday condemning the North's fifth and most powerful nuclear test in September, with the main focus placed on significantly restricting the country's coal exports deemed to be a major source of its hard currency.
"We have expanded the number of those subject to sanctions by adding to the list 35 entities and 36 individuals that are playing a critical role in developing weapons of mass destruction and contributing to the North Korean regime's efforts to secure foreign currency," Lee Suk-joon, the top official in charge of government policy coordination at the Prime Minister's Office, told reporters.
Included in the blacklist were Choe Ryong-hae, a vice chairman of the Central Committee of the ruling Workers' Party, and Vice Marshal Hwang Pyong-so, director of the military's general political bureau, both of whom are regarded as close aides for North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
The Workers' Party and the State Affairs Commission were also added along with other entities suspected of supporting the regime's efforts to export its coal and generate earnings.
In particular, Dandong Hongxiang Industrial Development and four of its executives were included on the list, marking the first time that a Chinese firm is facing South Korea's unilateral sanctions.
The company is under investigation on suspicions that it exported aluminum oxide -- a nuclear bomb ingredient -- to the North at least twice in recent years. In September, the U.S. blacklisted it along with its owner and other company officials.
With the latest action by Seoul, a total of 79 individuals and 69 entities will be subject to sanctions in connection with the North's nuclear programs. The government announced a blacklist in March as a follow-up move to the UNSC's Resolution 2270 adopted in the wake of the North's fourth nuclear test in January.
Any financial transactions with them will be prohibited, while their assets in South Korea will be frozen. The blacklisted people will also be banned from entering the country, which is seen as a symbolic action given that there are no exchanges between the two Koreas.
Other prohibitive measures include blacklisting the North's state-owned airline Air Koryo on suspicions that it helps its regime transfer workers abroad, and move cash and other embargoed materials into the isolated country.
The Seoul government has also toughened its maritime sanctions by banning any ships that have traveled to the North within the past one year, an extension from the previous 180 days, from entering South Korean ports.
In addition, a watch list "tailored" to enhance the monitoring on activities related to the North's submarine-launched ballistic missile capability will be prepared and shared with the international community, it said.
South Korea has been working closely with other countries to tighten its noose around the North Korean regime by blocking money flows that could be used in advancing its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. The U.S. and Japan are expected to unveil their own unilateral sanctions soon.
The efforts came as a follow-up action after the UNSC adopted Resolution 2321 placing a cap on the annual amount of the North's coal exports to 7.5 million tons or US$400 million, a more than 60 percent cut from its 2015 overseas shipments.
The move, along with many other sanctions in areas ranging from trade to diplomacy, is part of the international community's efforts to cover the loophole found in the previous sanctions that have been suspected of being exploited by the North.
The government estimated that such multinational and unilateral sanctions implemented since March have cost the North around $200 million in foreign currency income.
"The constantly upgraded nuclear and missile capabilities of the North are posing a serious destabilizing factor not just to the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia but also to the whole international community," Lee said.
"If we fail to stop the threat from the North Korean regime right now, a sense of crisis is growing that nowhere in the world will be free from all of this. ... It is critical to have support from our people to steadily push for this diplomatic and security issue that could determine our nation's fate," he added.