Washington DC [USA], Dec 11 (ANI): The United States Treasury Department on Monday imposed sanctions against three North Korean officials for alleged human rights abuses and carrying out censorship activities in the reclusive nation.
North Korean state security minister Jong Kyong Thaek, ideological watchdog Choe Ryong Hae and propaganda director Pak Kwang Ho were designated by the The Office of Foreign Assets Control under 2016 financial sanctions penalising North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's regime.
The sanctions now prevents the three officials from the US financial system and their assets under the US jurisdiction have been frozen by the Treasury Department. Additionally, transactions by American citizens involving the designated persons are prohibited.
In a statement, Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said, "Treasury is sanctioning three senior North Korean officials who direct departments that perpetrate the regime's brutal state-sponsored censorship activities, human rights violations and abuses, and other abuses in order to suppress and control the population. These sanctions demonstrate the US' ongoing support for freedom of expression, and opposition to endemic censorship and human rights abuses."
Jong Kyong Thaek is accused of playing a role in directing the censorship activities and abuses perpetrated by the North Korean Ministry of State Security, which was earlier designated by the US government for human rights violations.
Choe Ryong Hae, the director of the Organisation and Guidance Department (OGD) is reportedly seen as the "number two" official with control over the ruling Worker's Party, the North Korean government and the country's military. The OGD is a powerful body of the North Korean regime, and is instrumental in implementing censorship policies, and purports to control the political affairs of all North Koreans.
The OGD also assumes oversight responsibilities over organizations undergoing party audits to inspect for ideological discipline. When a party official deviates from the official message in public remarks, the OGD reportedly will dispatch an official to monitor a self-criticism session.
Pak Kwang Ho, the director of Propaganda and Agitation Department is accused of maintaining ideological purity and managing the general censorship functions of the department, furthering the suppression of freedom of speech, expression, and censorship. The PAD is said to maintain oppressive information control and is responsible for indoctrinating the people.
The sanctions are a part of US President Donald Trump administration's continued efforts to highlight North Korea's abysmal human rights record.
"The US has consistently condemned the North Korean regime for its flagrant and egregious abuses of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and this administration will continue to take action against human rights abusers around the globe," Mnuchin said.
The sanctions imposed are the latest effort by the US to mount further pressure on North Korea over the dismantling of its nuclear weapons programme and achieving denuclearisation in the Korean Peninsula.
During the first ever summit between Kim and Trump at Singapore in June, the two leaders had agreed to work towards the denuclearisation of the communist country.
However, negotiations have gone off track since then owing to Pyongyang's apparent continuation of nuclear tests, putting a question mark over its commitment of giving up nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. (ANI)