Financial Sanctions Could Force Reforms in North Korea: Washington Post Op-Ed by Professor Lee

Washington Post

Sung-Yoon Lee is the Kim Koo-Korea Foundation Professor in Korean Studies and Assistant Professor at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University

Calls for action have followed a United Nations report that the North Korean regime is culpable for “unspeakable atrocities” and crimes against humanity, including the starvation and murder of millions of people over the past 20 years. China has already said it would block a referral to the International Criminal Court . But the world still has a way to pressure Pyongyang to modify its behavior.

Many believe that U.S. sanctions against North Korea are maxed out. In fact, U.S. sanctions are relatively weak. There are no travel sanctions against North Korea (as with Cuba) nor any against human rights violators (as with Sudan, Iran and Belarus). Critically, there are no broad-based, third-party sanctions against North Korea’s exports or financial sector. Iran and Burma are designated as primary money-laundering “concerns” under Section 311 of the Patriot Act, which restricts their access to the global financial system. But North Korea, the world’s most notorious counterfeiter and money-launderer, is not. Import sanctions were relaxed between 2008 and 2011, and Americans can still export to North Korea if they obtain a license.

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