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Human Rights Abuses Cause US to Sanction Kim Jong Un

The United States sanctioned North Korean leader Kim Jong Un today for human rights abuses "without parallel in the Modern world."

The Treasury Dept. added Kim and 10 other North Korean individuals and five entities, to the U.S. sanctions list. The "Marshall" as he is called in North Korea, is among 23 individuals and entities cited for their role in serious human rights violations, hunting down defectors or censorship in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

"Human rights abuses in the DPRK are among the worst in the world," U.S. Department of State spokesman John Kirby said in a statement today. "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."

It is the very first time the US has sanctioned Kim personally.

The department added that this is 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."

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 extrajudicial killings, forced labor camps and torture under Kim's rule.

North Korea's human rights record is among the worst in the world and has been globally condemned - especially by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the European Union and the United Nations. The country has spent decades near or at the top of virtually all measures of state repression. Indeed, most international human rights organizations consider North Korea to have no contemporary parallel with respect to violations of liberty.

The General Assembly of the United Nations has since 2003 annually adopted a resolution condemning the country's human rights record. The latest resolution of December 19, 2011, passed by a vote of 123–16 with 51 abstentions, urged the government in Pyongyang to end its "systematic, widespread and grave violations of human rights", which included public executions and arbitrary detentions. North Korea rejected the resolution, saying it was politically motivated and based upon untrue fabrications. In February 2014, a UN special commission published a detailed, 400-page account based on first-hand testimonies documenting "unspeakable atrocities" committed in the country.

The U.S. action comes at a time when the North Korean government is pushing ahead with its nuclear weapon and ballistic missile programs, despite the threat of international sanctions. Just days after the reclusive country test-launched two medium-range ballistic missiles last month, the top North Korean official for U.S. relations told The Associated Press that Washington can expect more nuclear tests and missile launches as long as it tries to force his government's collapse through a policy of pressure and punishment.

"It's the United States that caused this issue," Han Song Ryol, the director-general of the department of U.S. affairs at North Korea's Foreign Ministry, told AP in his first interview with an American news organization since assuming the post three years ago. "They have to stop their military threats, sanctions and economic pressure. Without doing so, it's like they are telling us to reconcile while they are putting a gun to our forehead."

Human rights in North Korea are severely limited. Despite numerous rights being enshrined in the country's constitution, in practice, there is no right to free speech, and the only radio, television, music and news providers that are deemed legal are those operated by the government.

Based on defectors' testimonies, an estimated 150,000–200,000 prisoners are incarcerated in various prison camps, including camps that are dedicated to political crimes, and are subject to forced labor, physical abuse and execution.[citation needed]

The North Korean government makes it very difficult for foreigners to enter the country for purposes other than tourism and it strictly monitors their activities when they do. Aid workers are subject to considerable scrutiny and are excluded from places and regions the government does not wish them to enter. Since citizens cannot freely leave the country, it is mainly from stories of refugees and defectors that the nation's human rights record has been constructed. The government's position, expressed through the Korean Central News Agency, is that international criticism of its human rights record is a pretext for overthrowing its Juche-based socialist system, while the abuses of its critics go unpunished.


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