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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

U.S., South Korea sanction more Northern entities

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A bronze seal for the Department of the Treasury is shown at the U.S. Treasury building in Washington in this file photo dated Jan. 20. [REUTERS/YONHAP]
A bronze seal for the Department of the Treasury is shown at the U.S. Treasury building in Washington in this file photo dated Jan. 20. [REUTERS/YONHAP]

Seoul and Washington sanctioned three North Korean organizations and seven North Korean individuals who raked in cryptocurrency and other assets illegally to fund the North’s nuclear and missile program, the two governments announced Tuesday.

The sanctioned organizations include Jinyong IT Cooperation Company, affiliated with the North Korean Defense Ministry, that have dispatched North Korean IT workers to Russia, China and Laos. These workers have engaged in high-profit cyber activities overseas to fund the North’s weapons programs.

The organizations also include Kumsong Academy, which operated a cram school for North Korean hackers in Laos, according to the Foreign Ministry in Seoul.

The seven individuals, all North Korean citizens, include managers of overseas North Korean facilities that trained and, in some cases, abused North Korean IT workers to make them earn money illegally overseas.

Managers include Kim Sang-man, general manager of the Jinyong IT Cooperation Company; Kim Song-il, representative of Jinyong IT Cooperation Company in China; and Kim Hyo-dong, representative of Tongmyong Technology Trade Company in Laos, said the Foreign Ministry in Seoul.

Individuals Yu Song-hyok and Yun Song-il, also sanctioned, ran a North Korean restaurant in Laos and helped North Korean IT workers launder their illegal incomes.

These joint sanctions come within a month of Washington and Seoul’s sanctions on North Korean individual Sim Hyon-sop, tied to the regime’s illicit cyber activities and weapons programs.

“This reflects the strong will of the two governments to firmly block North Korea’s illegal cyber activities,” said the Foreign Ministry in its statement Tuesday.

In announcing the sanctions, the ministry also shared the digital currency address of Jinyong IT Cooperation Company.

“This way, we can warn employers out there that might hire North Korean IT workers of the company for a job,” said the ministry.

Prior permission from the Bank of Korea or the Financial Services Commission is required to engage in foreign exchange or financial transactions with the targets of these sanctions, said the ministry.

Any transactions without permission may be punished under relevant laws, it said.

Seoul and Washington are hosting a special forum in San Francisco on Wednesday with officials and experts from 20 countries to discuss ways to identify North Korean IT workers making money overseas illegally under pseudo-identities.

“Participants will share information on detected activities of North Korean IT workers and the methods they use to evade sanctions,” said the ministry.

The inhumane conditions under which these workers are often subjected to work will also be discussed at the forum.

With the latest sanctions, the number of North Korean organizations sanctioned by the South Korean government grew to 44 and the number of individuals to 43, said the Foreign Ministry.

BY ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]