Seoul imposes sanctions on Pyongyang ahead of Trump's visit

South Korea has imposed unilateral sanctions on 18 North Koreans, barring any financial transactions between those sanctioned and any South Koreans, as part of international efforts to dry up Pyongyang’s illegal cash flows.
All 18 individuals on which the South Korean sanctions were imposed were directly affiliated to North Korean banks.
All 18 individuals on which the South Korean sanctions were imposed were directly affiliated to North Korean banks.PHOTO: REUTERS

South Korea has announced fresh sanctions against the North, in what is seen as a symbolic move to show a united front with its ally, the United States.

Yesterday's decision to blacklist 18 North Korean officials and bankers came a day before US President Donald Trump arrives in Seoul, one of the stops in his Asia tour that is largely dominated by the North's nuclear issue. President Moon Jae In and Mr Trump will hold talks this afternoon.

South Korea's Unification Ministry said the sanctions will help cut off sources of foreign currency that can be used to finance Pyongyang's nuclear programme. The blacklisted include Mr Kang Min of Korea Daesong Bank in China, and Mr Ri Un Song of Korea United Development Bank in Russia.

The move will also "help raise awareness about the risks of trading with North Korea", ministry spokesman Baik Tae Hyun said.

Analysts, however, saw the move as merely symbolic as the 18 people were already blacklisted by the US Treasury Department in September, and their banks added to the United Nations Security Council's blacklist.

Dr Chung Eun Sook of the Sejong Institute think-tank told The Straits Times that South Korea's sanctions have "no practical meaning" as it has already cut all economic ties with the North.

"But as Trump is coming to Korea, the Korean government may be trying to show unity with the US, which is exerting more pressure on North Korea," she added.

Still, it is a rare move by the administration of Mr Moon, a dovish leader who hopes to improve inter-Korea relations but is forced to harden his stance following Pyongyang's multiple provocations.

Dr Chung said: "President Moon has to face up to the reality that North Korea is putting him in a very difficult situation with all its nuclear and missile tests. He must... recognise that harsh pressure and unity with the US, China and Russia is needed at this moment."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 07, 2017, with the headline 'Seoul imposes sanctions on Pyongyang ahead of Trump's visit'. Subscribe