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(2nd LD) S. Korea unveils own anti-N. Korea sanctions

All Headlines 16:59 March 08, 2016

(ATTN: UPDATES throughout with more details, background)

SEOUL, March 8 (Yonhap) -- South Korea unveiled a slew of its own punitive measures against Pyongyang Tuesday, including blacklisting scores of North Koreans and entities suspected to be linked to the North's weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

The set of measures is a follow-up to newly-imposed United Nations Security Council (UNSC) sanctions in response to Pyongyang's nuclear test in January and long-range rocket launch last month, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) said.

"The government will cooperate with the international community to change North Korea by toughening our own sanctions against the country and by faithfully carrying out the UNSC resolution," Lee Suk-joon, the top official in charge of government policy coordination at the PMO, told reporters.

Seoul's sanctions include blacklisting 38 North Korean officials and two foreigners, as well as 30 organizations, including 24 based in Pyongyang, that are involved in the North's nuke and missile programs.

Noticeably, scores of people and entities involved in developing or transporting the WMDs, such as trade firms, were additionally added to the blacklist, marking the first time Seoul has taken such a step.

Among those on the list is Hong Sung-mu, deputy director handling munitions in the ruling Workers' Party of Korea, who is believed to have spearheaded the North's Jan. 6 nuke test.

Kim Yong-chul, former director of the North's Reconnaissance General Bureau and allegedly responsible for the sinking of a South Korean warship and the artillery attack on Yeonpyeong Island, is also on the list.

The Seoul government said the measure would ban people and organizations from making financial and property transactions with South Korean banks and freeze their assets here as well.

Other punitive actions include prohibiting vessels that have traveled to North Korea in the past 180 days from entering South Korean waters.

To support the maritime sanctions, the South Korean military is considering an operation in tandem with the Coast Guard to block foreign vessels that try to enter the South's territorial waters after visiting the North, a military official said, asking not to be named.

This ban is expected to put a halt on a trilateral logistics project involving the two Koreas and Russia. The Rajin-Khasan project aims to bring Russian coal and other freight to the South via rail and sea links that connect the three countries.

A total of 66 ships that visited North Korea subsequently sailed into South Korean ports last year, mostly carrying steel, the premier's office said.

The move is aimed at faithfully enforcing the toughest-ever UNSC sanctions imposed last week that call for mandatory inspections of all cargo going into and out of North Korea and a ban on the exports of mineral resources, a major source of hard currency for the cash-strapped country.

Seoul's list includes the individuals and entities already on separate lists of the U.S., the European Union and Japan.

Also, the government will clamp down on North Korean products entering the country in line with Seoul's already imposed sanctions in May 2010 to punish the North for the sinking of a South Korean warship.

The government said it will advise its citizens to not visit North Korean restaurants abroad, as the communist regime operates them to earn hard currency.

The communist regime is thought to run some 130 restaurants in China, Russia, Myanmar, Vietnam and other countries. The restaurants are believed to rake in a combined US$100 million each year, which observers say could be funneled into the North's weapons program.

"The government will continue to make efforts to sanction and put pressure on North Korea by cooperating with the international community," Lee said.

Seoul's new package of sanctions came as the U.S. and other nations have adopted or are considering their own unilateral sanctions to cut Pyongyang's access to hard foreign currency and curb its nuclear development.

Last month, U.S. President Barack Obama signed into law a comprehensive package of tough sanctions on the North. The package calls for imposing mandatory sanctions on those assisting Pyongyang for its nuclear and missile programs, cyber-attacks, human rights abuses and imports of luxury goods.

It also sanctions trade in coal, minerals and precious metals, and blacklisting those helping with Pyongyang's money laundering, counterfeiting, cash smuggling and narcotics trafficking.

The EU and Japan have also expanded or sharpened their own sanctions against Pyongyang.

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