Sanctions against North Korea

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A number of countries and international bodies have imposed sanctions against North Korea. Currently, sanctions are largely concerned with North Korea's nuclear weapons program and were imposed after its first nuclear test in 2006.

The United States imposed sanctions in the 1950s, and tightened them further with international bombings against South Korea by North Korean agents during the 1980s, including the Rangoon bombing, and the bombing of Korean Air Flight 858. In 1988, the United States added North Korea to its list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Sanctions against North Korea started to ease during the 1990s when South Korea's then-liberal government pushed for engagement policies with the North, and the Clinton administration signed the Agreed Framework with North Korea in 1994. However, the relaxing of economic sanctions was short-lived. North Korea continued its nuclear program and officially withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 2003 and countries started to reinstate various sanctions. UN Security Council Resolutions were passed after North Korea conducted nuclear tests in 2006, 2009, 2013, and more recently in 2016 and 2017. Additional sanctions were imposed. Initially, sanctions focused on trade bans on weapons related materials and goods, but expanded to luxury goods to target the elites. Further sanctions expanded to financial assets and banking transactions, and general travel and trade.[1]

United Nations Security Council

A North Korea cargo ship at the dock in Nampo

The UN Security Council has passed a number of resolutions since North Korea's first nuclear test in 2006.[2]

  • Resolution 1718 in 2006 demanded that North Korea cease nuclear testing and prohibited the export to North Korea of some military supplies and luxury goods.[3][4] The UN Security Council Sanctions Committee on North Korea was established, supported by the Panel of Experts.[5][6][7]
  • Resolution 1874, passed after the second nuclear test in 2009, broadened the arms embargo. Member states were encouraged to inspect ships and destroy any cargo suspected being related to the nuclear weapons program.[4][2]
  • Resolution 2087, passed in January 2013 after a satellite launch, strengthened previous sanctions by clarifying a state's right to seize and destroy cargo suspected of heading to or from North Korea for purposes of military research and development.[4][2]
  • Resolution 2094 was passed in March 2013 after the third nuclear test. It imposed sanctions on money transfers and aimed to shut North Korea out of the international financial system.[4][2]
  • Resolution 2270, passed in March 2016 after the fourth nuclear test, further strengthened sanctions.[8] It banned the export of gold, vanadium, titanium, and rare earth metals. The export of coal and iron were also banned, with an exemption for transactions that were purely for "livelihood purposes".[9][2]
  • Resolution 2321, passed in November 2016, capped North Korea's coal exports and banned exports of copper, nickel, zinc, and silver.[10][11] In February 2017, a UN panel said that 116 of 193 member states had not yet submitted a report on their implementation of these sanctions, though China had.[12] Also in February 2017, China announced it would ban all imports of coal for the rest of the year.[13]
  • Resolution 2371, passed in August 2017, banned all exports of coal, iron, lead, and seafood. The resolution also imposed new restrictions on North Korea's Foreign Trade Bank and prohibited any increase in the number of North Koreans working in foreign countries.[14]
  • Resolution 2375, passed on 11 September 2017, limited North Korean crude oil and refined petroleum product imports, banned joint ventures, textile exports, natural gas condensate and liquid imports, and banned North Korean nationals from working abroad in other countries.[15]

United Nations agencies are restricted in the aid they can give to North Korea because of the sanctions, but they can help with nutrition, health, water, and sanitation.[16]


China has banned exports of some petroleum products and imports of textiles from North Korea in line with United Nations sanctions.[17]

United States

From 1950 to 2008, trade between the United States and North Korea was restricted under the US Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917. After 2008, some restrictions related to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act stayed in effect. In February 2016, the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act of 2016 (H.R. 757Pub.L. 114–122) was passed which:[4]

  • requires the President to sanction entities found to have contributed to North Korea's weapons of mass destruction program, arms trade, human rights abuses or other illegal activities.[4]
  • imposes mandatory sanctions for entities involved in North Korea's mineral or metal trades, which comprise a large part of North Korea's foreign exports.[4]
  • requires the US Treasury Department to determine whether North Korea should be listed as a "primary money laundering concern," which would trigger tough new financial restrictions.[4]
  • imposes new sanctions authorities related to North Korean human rights abuses and abuses of cybersecurity.

In July 2017, after the death of tourist Otto Warmbier, the United States government banned Americans from visiting North Korea from 1 September.[18]

In August 2017, the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act was passed.[19]

On 21 September 2017, President Donald Trump issued Executive Order 13810 allowing the United States to cut from its financial system and/or freeze assets of any companies, businesses, organisations and individuals trading in goods, services or technology with North Korea. Also any aircraft or ship upon entering North Korea is banned for 180 days from entering the United States. The same restriction applies to ships which conducted ship to ship transfers with North Korean ships. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin stated that "Foreign financial institutions are now on notice that going forward they can choose to do business with the United States or North Korea, but not both." A statement from the White House said “Foreign financial institutions must choose between doing business with the United States or facilitating trade with North Korea or its designated supporters.”[20][21] On 25 September 2017, the US Treasury barred the entry of North Korean nationals to the United States.[22]

Following the abduction of a South Korean fishing vessel, additional sanctions were ordered by the US Treasury on 26 October 2017, following a culmination of 'flagrant' rights abuses including executions, torture, and forced labor. Seven individuals and three North Korean entities were affected by the sanctions.[23]

On 11 July 2018, NATO leaders called for continued pressure and ongoing sanctions enforcement on North Korea, during a summit of the 29 member countries taking place in Brussels. The group signed a declaration which called on members to maintain pressure on North Korea, though also welcomed recent diplomatic progress in the region.[24]

According to John Bolton, the United States seeks to implement the "Libya Model" on North Korea's nuclear program. In 2003, Libya denuclearized, and in 2011 was invaded by NATO. This reference sparked controversy, seeming to indicate that the United States was interested in overthrowing the North Korean government.

On 13 November 2018, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reaffirmed the need to keep sanctions on North Korea to achieve its denuclearization.[25] On 20 December 2018, it was reported that the United States plans to review its ban on American travel to North Korea.[26]

South Korea

In 2010, South Korea imposed sanctions against North Korea in response to the sinking of the South Korean naval ship, the ROKS Cheonan, known as the May 24 measures, included:[4]

  • banning North Korean ships from South Korean territorial waters.[4]
  • suspending inter-Korean trade except at the Kaesong Industrial Zone.[4]
  • banning most cultural exchanges.[4]

In 2016, President Park Geun-hye ordered the Kaesong Industrial Zone closed in retaliation for the nuclear test in January and the rocket launch in February.[4]


In 2016, Japan's sanctions against North Korea include:[4]

  • banning remittances, except those made for humanitarian purposes and less than 100,000 yen in value.[4]
  • freezing assets of suspect individuals and organizations in Japan.
  • prohibiting North Korean citizens from entering Japan.[4]
  • renewing the ban on North Korean ships entering Japanese ports and extending it to include other ships that have visited North Korea.[4]
  • banning nuclear and missile technicians who have been to North Korea from entering Japan.[27]

European Union

The European Union has imposed a series of sanctions against North Korea since 2006. These include:[4]

  • an embargo on arms and related material.[4]
  • banning the export of aviation and rocket fuel to North Korea.
  • banning the trade in gold, precious metals and diamonds with the North Korean government.[4]
  • banning the import of minerals from North Korea, with some exemptions for coal and iron ore.
  • banning exports of luxury goods.[4]
  • restrictions on financial support for trade with North Korea.[4]
  • restrictions on investment and financial activities.[4]
  • inspections and monitoring of cargoes imported to and exported from North Korea.[4]
  • prohibiting certain North Korean individuals from entering the EU.[28]

On 21 September 2017, EU banned oil exports and investments in North Korea.[21]


Australia has imposed a series of sanctions against North Korea from August 2017.[29]


A report by the United Nations Panel of Experts stated that North Korea was covertly trading in arms and minerals in defiance of the sanctions.[30]

The academic John Delury has described the sanctions as futile and counterproductive. He has argued that they are unenforceable and unlikely to stop North Korea's nuclear weapons program.[31]

On the other hand, Sung-Yoon Lee, Professor in Korean Studies at the Fletcher School, and Joshua Stanton, advocate continued tightening of sanctions, targeting Pyongyang's systemic vulnerabilities, including blocking the regime's "offshore hard currency reserves and income with financial sanctions, including secondary sanctions against its foreign enablers. This would significantly diminish, if not altogether deny, Kim the means to pay his military, security forces and elites that repress the North Korean public".[32][33]


  1. ^ "Lee, Yong Suk, 2018. "International isolation and regional inequality: Evidence from sanctions on North Korea," Journal of Urban Economics".
  2. ^ a b c d e Davenport, Kelsey (1 March 2016). "UN Security Council Resolutions on North Korea". Washington, D.C., USA: Arms Control Association. Archived from the original on 15 April 2017. Retrieved 23 April 2017.
  3. ^ "Security Council condemns nuclear test by Democratic People's Republic of Korea". United Nations. 14 October 2006.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x Fifield, Anna (22 February 2016). "Punishing North Korea: A Rundown on Current Sanctions". Washington Post. Archived from the original on 11 January 2017. Retrieved 26 March 2017.
  5. ^ "UN Security Council Committee Established Pursuant to Resolution 1718 (2006) - Work and mandate". New York, USA: United Nations Security Council. Archived from the original on 8 April 2017. Retrieved 8 April 2017.
  6. ^ Salomon, Salem (22 March 2017). "Sanctioned and Shunned, North Korea Finds Arms Deals in Africa". Voice of America. USA. Archived from the original on 22 March 2017. Retrieved 2 April 2017.
  7. ^ Berger, Andrea (16 March 2017). "A Familiar Story: The New UN Report on North Korean Sanctions Implementation". 38 North, U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University's Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies. USA. Archived from the original on 16 March 2017. Retrieved 8 April 2017.
  8. ^ UN Security Council (7 March 2013). "Security Council Strengthens Sanctions on Democratic People's Republic of Korea, in Response to 12 February Nuclear Test".
  9. ^ UN Security Council (2 March 2016). "Resolution 2270 (2016)".
  10. ^ Morello, Carol (30 November 2016). "UN caps N. Korean coal sales in bid to deprive it of hard currency after nuclear tests". Washington Post.
  11. ^ UN Security Council. "Security Council Strengthens Sanctions on Democratic Republic of Korea, Unanimously Adopting Resolution 2321 (2016) - With Secretary-General Hailing Measures as 'Toughest Ever', Some Warn against Military Build-up on Peninsula". United Nations. Archived from the original on 12 December 2016. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  12. ^ Kesling, Ben; Gale, Alistair (25 April 2017). "Trump's North Korea Obstacle: Sanctions Are Unevenly Enforced". Wall Street Journal.
  13. ^ Denyer, Simon (18 February 2017). "China suspends North Korean coal imports, striking at regime's financial lifeline". Washington Post.
  14. ^ Gladstone, Rick (5 August 2017). "U.N. Security Council imposes punishing new sanctions on North Korea". The New York Times. USA. Retrieved 8 August 2017.
  15. ^ "Security Council Imposes Fresh Sanctions on Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Including Bans on Natural Gas Sales, Work Authorization for Its Nationals - Meetings Coverage and Press Releases".
  16. ^ Miles, Tom (21 June 2018). "Tackling North Korea's chronically poor sewage 'not rocket science': U.N." Reuters.
  17. ^ Staff; agencies (23 September 2017). "China to enforce UN sanctions against North Korea". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 28 December 2017.
  18. ^ Torbati, Yeganeh; Lee, Se Young (21 July 2017). "U.S. State Department to clamp ban on travel to North Korea". Reuters. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  19. ^ Macias, Amanda; Turak, Natasha (4 August 2017). "A look at the issues at stake ahead of Trump and Putin's summit". CNBC. Retrieved 14 August 2018.
  20. ^ Borak, Donna. "North Korea sanctions: Here's what Trump did".
  21. ^ a b Borger, Julian (21 September 2017). "Trump issues new sanctions on North Korea and claims China is following" – via
  22. ^ "US expands travel ban to include N Korea". 25 September 2017 – via
  23. ^ "U.S. sanctions North Koreans for 'flagrant' rights abuse". Reuters. 26 October 2017. Retrieved 26 October 2017.
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^ US to reconsider travel ban to North Korea
  27. ^ Pollmann, Mina (12 February 2016). "Japan Unveils Unilateral Sanctions on North Korea". The Diplomat.
  28. ^ European Union External Action (2016). "Fact Sheet:EU-Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) relations" (PDF).
  29. ^ "Australia expands sanctions on North Korea". Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Archived from the original on 13 October 2017.
  30. ^ Byrne, Leo (8 February 2017). "PoE says North Korea "flouting sanctions": report". NK News.
  31. ^ Delury, John (2 December 2016). "North Korea sanctions: Futile, counterproductive and dangerous". CNN.
  32. ^ Lee, Sung-Yoon; Stanton, Joshua (15 January 2016). "How to get serious with North Korea". CNN. USA. Archived from the original on 18 January 2017. Retrieved 18 January 2017.
  33. ^ Stanton, Joshua; Lee, Sung-Yoon (4 January 2016). "Beef Up Sanctions on North Korea". The Wall Street Journal. USA. Archived from the original on 21 January 2017. Retrieved 18 January 2017.

Further reading

  • Chang, Semoon (2007). Economic Sanctions Against a Nuclear North Korea: An Analysis of United States and United Nations Actions Since 1950. McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-5139-5.
  • Haggard, Stephan; Noland, Marcus (2010). "Sanctioning North Korea: The Political Economy of Denuclearization and Proliferation". Asian Survey. 50 (3): 539–568. doi:10.1525/as.2010.50.3.539. ISSN 0004-4687.

External links

  • List of international sanctions against North Korea, published by
  • United Nations Documents for DPRK (North Korea)
  • UN Security Council Committee Established Pursuant to Resolution 1718 (2006) (Reports issued by the UN Panel of Experts, established to support of the Sanctions Committee in carrying out its mandate as specified in paragraph 12 of resolution 1718)
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