By Michael Hernandez
The U.S. sanctioned three North Korean officials Monday, including Pyongyang’s minister of state security, for alleged human rights abuses and censorship.
Jong Kyong Thaek was blacklisted alongside Choe Ryong Hae, whom the Treasury Department said is the director of North Korea’s Organization and Guidance Department.
The Treasury Department said the Korean agency is “instrumental” in Pyongyang’s censorship efforts, and described Choe as the “number two” within North Korea’s ruling party.
Washington also designated Pak Kwang Ho, whom the U.S. said is the director of North Korea’s Propaganda and Agitation Department.
It described Pak’s primary responsibility as “maintaining ideological purity and managing the general censorship functions” of his department, which allegedly includes restricting freedom of speech.
“Treasury is sanctioning 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,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.
“These sanctions demonstrate the United States’ ongoing support for freedom of expression, and opposition to endemic censorship and human rights abuses,” he added.
The economic penalties come in conjunction with a State Department report detailing North Korea’s alleged human rights abuses and censorship efforts.