South Korea imposes sanctions on North

A cargo ship is loaded with coal at the North Korean port of Rajin in this July 18, 2014 file photo.
A cargo ship is loaded with coal at the North Korean port of Rajin in this July 18, 2014 file photo. PHOTO: REUTERS

SEOUL • South Korea yesterday announced a set of unilateral sanctions against North Korea, stepping up pressure following a United Nations Security Council resolution punishing the Pyongyang regime for a fourth nuclear test and a long-range rocket launch.

The sanctions include a ban on entry by vessels that have travelled to North Korea in the previous 180 days, and a blacklist of people and groups linked to North Korea's development of weapons of mass destruction, Mr Lee Suk Joon, an official in the Prime Minister's Office, said yesterday in a televised briefing.

South Korea created a blacklist of North Korea-related companies that will be banned from doing business with the South. The list includes two Taiwanese companies, one Myanmar, one Egyptian, one Singaporean and one firm from the Virgin Islands. The list also included one Singaporean and one Taiwanese businessman.

The Singaporean was identified in South Korean media as Mr Leonard Lai Yong Chian. He is the president of Senat Shipping Agency, the Singapore company on the blacklist. Seoul will ban those on the list from engaging in financial transactions with South Korean entities and freeze assets that are held in the country, the government said.

Senat Shipping was blacklisted by the US last year over allegations that it is supporting illicit arms shipments to North Korea. The firm has denied the allegations.

The new sanctions came a day after South Korea began its largest joint annual military drills with the US - exercises that North Korea calls a rehearsal for war.

Mr Lee urged South Koreans to refrain from visiting North Korean restaurants abroad, from which the government in Pyongyang earns an estimated US$10 million (S$13.8 million) a year.

Following the passage of the UN resolution, China has barred a North Korean freighter from one of its ports, while the Philippines has banned another vessel from leaving port.

After the North's rocket launch last month, South Korea suspended operations at the Kaesong industrial zone in North Korea, just on the common border, which had been run jointly with the North for more than a decade.

South Korea would also discontinue participation in a pilot project that brought Russian coal to South Korea through the North Korean port of Rajin.

Earlier yesterday, South Korea's spy agency accused the North of hacking the smartphones of government officials.

The National Intelligence Service said the North had stolen phone numbers and texts from the phones of dozens of key officials between late February and early this month.

North Korean hackers also sent phishing e-mails to employees of two provincial railway operators in an attempt to steal passwords that could have allowed a cyber attack on rail traffic control systems, the agency said in a statement.

BLOOMBERG, REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 09, 2016, with the headline 'South Korea imposes sanctions on North'. Print Edition | Subscribe