US imposes sanctions on North Korea’s Kim Jong Un

North Korean leader and 10 other officials are placed on the US sanctions blacklist for the first time.

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

This undated picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on July 6, 2016, shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (C) inspecting a Pyongyang terrapin farm.

The United States has imposed sanctions on North Korea’s Kim Jong Un for the first time, holding him responsible for serious human rights abuses.

Kim, along with 10 more top officials, has been accused of responsibility for abuses including torture in prison camps, propaganda and extrajudicial killings, the US Treasury Department said in a statement.

The report said that political prison camps in North Korea hold an "estimated 80,000 to 120,000 prisoners, including children and other family members of the accused."

The sanctions, the first to target North Koreans over rights abuses, affect property and other assets under US jurisdiction.

"Under Kim Jong Un, North Korea continues to inflict intolerable cruelty and hardship on millions of its own people, including extrajudicial killings, forced labor, and torture," Acting Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Adam J. Szubin said in the statement.

The US Treasury Department took to Twitter to spread the word on the decision.

In 2014, the United Nations issued a report connecting Kim to human rights abuses, provoking a major reaction from Pyongyang.

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

Kim topped a list in the report of those responsible for serious human rights abuses in the country.

Another North Korean official linked to the abuses is the Minister of People's Security Choe Pu Il.

The US report states that "The Ministry of People’s Security operates a network of police stations and interrogation detention centers, including labor camps, throughout North Korea" where " during interrogations, suspects are systematically degraded, intimidated, and tortured."

A picture of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un taken July 1, 2016

A senior administration official told reporters that the sanctions are partly "symbolic" and naming the officials involved in the abuses could have positive outcomes and would make them "think twice" before carrying out abuses.

South Korea, which has imposed its own sanctions on the North cutting off all political and commercial ties, welcomed the move and said it will encourage greater international pressure on the North to improve its human rights record.

But some experts say the new sanctions will have little positive effect on the situation in North Korea.

"The sanctions from today will do nothing whatsoever to alter North Korea's strategic calculus and only underscore their thinking that the US has a 'hostile policy' against their country," said Michael Madden an expert on the North Korean leadership.

"Considering the sanctions name Kim Jong Un, the reaction from Pyongyang will be epic. There will be numerous official and state media denunciations which will target the US and Seoul and the wording will be vituperative and blistering," he said.

TRTWorld and agencies