US Bans North Korea’s Army Minister Over Human Rights Abuses

By Aldgra Fredly
Aldgra Fredly
Aldgra Fredly
Aldgra Fredly is a freelance writer based in Malaysia, covering Asia Pacific news for The Epoch Times.
December 14, 2021 Updated: December 14, 2021

The United States on Dec. 10 imposed new sanctions on North Korea under President Joe Biden’s administration, targeting North Korean Minister of People’s Armed Forces Ri Yong Gil and the Central Public Prosecutors Office links to human rights abuses.

In a statement, the U.S. Department of Treasury said the North Korean Central Public Prosecutors Office and court system had used to prosecute and punish persons for political wrongdoing in a legal process “involving fundamentally unfair trials.”

For some cases, the trials would end in sentencing the person to “notorious camps” run by the ministries in North Korea, one of which was led by Ri during his tenure when he was the social security minister.

Ri was recently appointed as the Minister of People’s Armed Forces, a UN-and U.S.-designated entity.

The Treasury claimed that foreigners have also been the victims of the “unfair justice system” in North Korea, citing the death of American college student Otto Warmbier who died in 2017 shortly after being released from yearlong North Korean detention.

It noted that North Korea would send workers overseas to work and earn foreign currency earnings to support its unlawful weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs.

“Foreign firms involved in the employment of DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] labor contribute to the poor treatment workers endure, which can include being subjected to constant surveillance, forced to work long hours, and having a significant portion of their wages confiscated by the regime,” it stated.

The Treasury accused the European Institute Justo, a Russian university based in Moscow, of “sponsoring hundreds of student visas for DPRK construction workers in Russia” and blacklisted the institution over its role in the exportation of workers from North Korea, including its provost, Dmitriy Yuvereich Soin.

The Treasury also designated state-run animation company SEK Studio for allegedly having “utilized an assortment of front companies to evade sanctions targeting the DPRK and to deceive international financial institutions.”

Lu Hezheng, a senior employee at SEK Studio who also owns shares in the Shanghai Hongman Cartoon and Animation Design Studion, was blacklisted over his role in facilitating wire transfers through front companies that have been receiving “millions of dollars” from foreign customers.

The Treasury also blacklisted Chinese companies Nings Cartoon Studio and Moxing Cartoon due to their direct or indirect involvement with SEK Studio.

Sanctions will result in the individuals’ property and assets being frozen in the United States, effectively barring them from conducting business in the country.

Aldgra Fredly is a freelance writer based in Malaysia, covering Asia Pacific news for The Epoch Times.