EU Sanctions Hit Top North Korean Elite

Despite improvements in the relationship between North Korea and the international community of late, the European Union has revised its sanctions “regulation” against the North, adding fresh prohibitions against a number of people and entities, including some important figures in the regime.

Citing South Korean government sources, Yonhap reported on the 10th that the EU revised its sanctions against North Korea in late December at an environment ministers’ meeting. The revised list specified some of Kim Jong Il’s closest associates, notably Jang Sung Taek, Director of the Ministry of Administration of the Chosun (North Korea) Worker’s Party and also Kim Jong Il’s brother-in-law, and Kim Young Choon, Minister of the People’s Armed Forces.

The EU has been enforcing its own sanctions regime against North Korea since last July, separate from U.N. Security Council Resolution 1874, in the form of a “regulation.” In EU parlance, a “regulation” means an instruction from Brussels which requires no ratification from each member state, in contrast with a “directive,” which member states must actively incorporate into domestic law.

The revised “regulation” adds an additional 13 individuals and four entities to the previous list of five individuals and eight entities. All are now subject to a travel ban and asset freeze.

In addition to Jang Sung Taek and Kim Young Choon, the 13 individuals includes Kim Dong Woon, the Chief of the No. 39 Department of the Central Committee of the Party, which manages Kim Jong Il’s own funds, and Jeon Byung Ho, the Secretary of the Arms Industry of the Workers Party, who is in charge of nuclear weapons development.

The four entities include Yongbyon Atomic Research Institute and Ryongwang Trading Company. All were designated for their role in North Korea’s WMD programs.

The EU’s move is of particular interest because it targets some very close associates of Kim Jong Il.; none of the UN, U.S. nor Japanese sanctions lists include people as close. Indeed, the act of including Jang Sung Taek and Kim Young Choon, neither of whom is directly involved in the development of nuclear weapons or missiles, as targets shows a tough willingness on the part of EU leaders to hit the leadership of the North Korean regime directly.

With regards to this change of approach, Lee Choon Kun, an adjunct professor at Ewha Woman’s University, told The Daily NK, “Europe freezes individual accounts of outgoing dictators in the event of coup de tat in Africa. Similarly, this measure can be interpreted as preparing for sudden change in North Korea, since it is targeting the power elite especially”.

Professor Lee went on, “Only innocent civilians are damaged when sanctions are applied to a whole country. However, measures to target individuals show an understanding of the need to separate the North Korea political leadership from the people.”

Jeon Sung Hoon, Senior Researcher at the Korea Institute for National Unification also pointed out the possibility of the move being part of a joint effort between international actors on the North Korea problem, saying, “There is the possibility that the U.S. is using the EU to put more pressure on North Korea while the U.S. itself tries to pursue dialogue. Perhaps they have acquired clear evidence indicating the involvement of these targets in WMD development.”

Either way, Jeon concluded, “Now sanctions are being applied to the leadership level close to Kim Jong Il, so it is also tightening up around Kim Jong Il’s neck. North Korea may be feeling considerable pressure from this measure.”