United States imposes sanctions on North Korean dictator

For the first time, the United States sanctions Kim Jong Un for human rights abuses.

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Ben Ariel,

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un
Reuters

For the first time, the United States on Wednesday sanctioned North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for human rights abuses, ABC News reports.

The Treasury Department added the young ruler, along with 10 other North Korean individuals and five entities, to the U.S. sanctions list.

"Human rights abuses in the DPRK are among the worst in the world," said State Department spokesman John Kirby in a statement quoted by ABC News.

"The government continues to commit extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrest and detention, forced labor and torture. Many of these abuses are committed in the political prison camps, where an estimated 80,000 to 120,000 individuals are detained, including children and family members of the accused," he added.

The department said in its statement announcing the sanctions that they are part of "the most comprehensive U.S. government effort to date" to identify and sanction North Korea's leaders responsible for the widespread abuses which they hope will "send a signal to all government officials who might be responsible for human rights abuses."

Kim is among 23 total North Korean individuals and entities cited in a report released by the U.S. Department of State for their role in serious human rights violations, hunting down defectors or censorship in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

U.S. officials gathered the names with the cooperation of other governments, international organizations and civil society groups.

The other names include Choe Pu-il, North Korea's minister of public security who oversees the operation of the political prisoner and forced labor camps, and Cho Yon-jun, the vice director of North Korea's organization and guidance department who is responsible for the executions of defectors, according to ABC News.

American officials expressed hope the report and the sanctions will have an impact on the North Korean regime.

"It sends a message to people within the North Korean regime, particularly at those lower to mid levels, that if you become involved in abuses like running concentration camps or hunting down defectors, we will know who you are and you will end up on a blacklist that leaves you at a significant disadvantage in the future," the senior administration official said, according to ABC News.

"We have no illusions that this is going to bring some sort of dramatic change in and of itself to North Korea, but simply lifting the anonymity of these functionaries may make them think twice from time to time when they consider a particular act of cruelty or repression."

The sanctions, which target property and other assets under U.S. jurisdiction, follow a 2014 report by the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea, which details a harrowing system of executions without any legal process, forced labor camps and torture under Kim's rule.

In addition to the human rights abuses, North Korea has continued its provocations of the West in recent months, having carried out a series of tests of its medium-range ballistic Musudan missile.

As well, Kim several weeks ago boasted that his country possesses "the sure capability to attack" U.S. interests in the Pacific.

North Korea has continued to test fire missiles despite UN measureswhich ban it from any use of ballistic missile technology.

Due to its continuous missile tests, President Barack Obama in March imposed sanctions on broad sectors of the North Korean economy, prohibiting U.S. businesses from conducting any trade with North Korean entities engaged in finance, transportation, mining and energy.