Published: Mon, July 11, 2016
Economy | By Melissa Porter

U.S. imposes sanctions on North Korea's Kim Jong Un

"The Government of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea) continues to commit serious human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and detention, forced labor, and torture", the State Department said in a report released Wednesday on human rights violations and censorship in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).

Pyongyang described the sanctioning of Kim as a "hideous crime", the official Korean Central News Agency reported on Thursday.

According to officials in Washington, the Ministry of State Security holds 80,000 to 120,000 prisoners in political prison camps where torture, execution, sexual assault, starvation, and slave labor are common.

The U.S. has previously imposed sanctions on other heads of state, including Syrian leader Bashar Al-Assad and late Libyan dictator Muammar El-Qaddafi.

But inside North Korea, adulation for Kim, 32, is mandatory and he is considered infallible.

The U.S. Treasury Department identified Kim's date of birth as January 8, 1984, a rare official confirmation of the young leader's birthday.

The blacklist includes Choe Pu Il, the minister of people's security; Choe Chang Pong, the director of the ministry's investigations bureau; Cho Il U at the Reconnaissance General Bureau, believed to run overseas espionage operations; and O Chong Kuk, thought to manage North Korea's infiltration operations into South Korea.

South Korea's foreign ministry has welcomed the announcement, saying it too will join various efforts in tackling the North's human rights issues.

However, they said there is evidence in North Korea that an increasing number of people are aware of the extent of abuses.

An op-ed published by Washington Post refers to a blog which refers to satellite imagery that shows what appears to be a significant reduction of trade over the China-North Korean border, suggesting that they might be cooperating with the strict sanctions.

Earlier this year, Congress passed demanded US President Barack Obama comission a report on the human rights situation in North Korea.

Mark Toner, the State Department Deputy spokesman, also called on North Korea "to refrain from actions and rhetoric that further destabilize the region and focus instead on taking concrete steps toward fulfilling its commitments and global obligations".

The officials also noted that this was the first time numerous North Korean officials involved have been publicly named, citing the secretive nature of the regime. They also come a few weeks after Donald Trump, the Republican Party's presumptive presidential nominee, said he would meet with Kim to discuss North Korea's nuclear program.

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