Obama foists new sanctions on North Korea

By Daniele Pestilli on January 4, 2015
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Barack Obama delivering a speech (CC image)

Following the round-robin of cyber attacks between North Korea and the North American branch of Sony Pictures, U.S. president Barack Obama has ratcheted up tensions by imposing a new set of sanctions on the Hermit Kingdom, BBC News reports.

The sanctions, which can be read in full on the U.S. Treasury website are a response to North Korea's “provocative, destabilizing, and repressive actions” and they bar three North Korean businesses as well as ten individuals/agencies access to the U.S. financial system.

The following three entities are designated under the E.O. signed by the President today for being controlled entities of the Government of North Korea:

  1. Reconnaissance General Bureau (RGB): RGB is North Korea’s primary intelligence organization
  2. Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation (KOMID): KOMID is North Korea’s primary arms dealer
  3. Korea Tangun Trading Corporation: is primarily responsible for the procurement of commodities and technologies to support North Korea's defense research and development programs

This is clearly a symbolic move on behalf of President Obama since North Korea is already riddled with sanctions in the United States. However, paired with the recent UN Security Council's condemnation of the North's crimes against humanity (which passed by a vote of 111 to 19, with 55 abstentions – mainly from China and Russia), these sanctions aim to further weaken Kim Jong Un's stronghold over his severely impoverished country by obstructing access to potential sources of income.

If North Korea has not already collapsed, it is in part due to its astute elite who are extensively trained to find clever ways to generate income for their country and leader.

In Blaine Harden's book, Escape from Camp 14, the author explains his encounter with a well-traveled member of the North Korean blue-blood elite called Kim Kwan Jin. Kim grew up in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, and trained in managing a state-run global insurance fraud. The scam worked like this:

Pyongyang-based managers for the state insurance monopoly would write policies that covered costly but common North Korean disasters such as mining accidents, train crashes, and crop losses resulting from floods.

By banking on disasters, these agents were dispatched across the globe to find insurance brokers who were willing to accept high insurance premiums for these disasters. One year it would be the London-based Lloyd's, another it might be Swiss Re, and the next it might be the German insurance giant, Allianz Global Investors. By betting on foreign ignorance and general apathy over the state of affairs in North Korea, these agents could generate tens of millions of dollars in revenue each year.

Seen under this lens, it is important that the international community be informed of the North Korean regime's crimes against humanity, and it is also important for the U.S. government to impose the aforementioned sanctions so that funds do not illegally trickle into the Hermit Kingdom. Every little bit counts towards making the Kim dynasty ultimately collapse to its feeble knees.

Frat-boy jokes

Asia Free Press explains that North Korean defectors based in the South have flocked to see the film, The Interview, which was at the root of the cyber attacks on Sony Pictures. However, contrary to movie-goers in the West, their viewing resulted in “shock and bafflement” in part due to the light treatment of a heavy topic, in part due to the plentiful frat-boy jokes, which are extraneous to East Asian cultures.

One defector, Kim Sung-min, said,

We've talked a lot about this flick over the past week, and we simply did not understand why it gives foreigners laughs.

Park Sang-hak, who defected to the South in 1999, told AFP, “For me, it wasn't a comedy - more of a bombshell, because of the way it made fun of Kim Jong Un.”

The comparison made was that of a North Korean movie that ridicules Jesus. The Kim dynasty's personality cult is so strong, in fact, that his characterization as a debauched lowlife strikes defectors as purely conflagrant – not comedic.