Gardner Statement on Sanctions Against Kim Jong Un

Gardner’s Bill Required Designation of Human Rights Abusers in North Korea

Washington, DC – The U.S. Department of Treasury today designated North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, top North Korean officials, and 10 individuals and several entities tied to the regime as notorious human rights abusers as required by Senator Cory Gardner’s (R-CO) North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act (NKSPEA). The designation marks the first ever human rights sanctions imposed on North Korea and coincides with the release of the State Department’s report identifying severe human rights abusers, which was also required by the NKSPEA.

Gardner has long advocated for sanctioning North Korea’s human rights abusers. In 2015, Gardner spoke at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) conference about why the U.S. should lead in addressing North Korea’s continued human rights abuses. Gardner also met with Justice Michael Kirby, who was appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council to investigate human rights violations in North Korea. 

Gardner’s legislation, which was signed into law by President Obama in February of 2016, mandated sanctions against persons that have enabled North Korea’s human rights abuses or censorship efforts. Additionally, the legislation required the President to develop a comprehensive strategy to promote human rights in North Korea, including a diplomatic outreach plan and a public diplomacy awareness campaign, and required the State Department to submit to Congress a diplomatic strategy to end repatriation of North Korean refugees and forced labor or slavery. The NKSPEA also imposes mandatory sanctions on individuals who contribute to North Korea’s nuclear program, proliferation activities, malicious cyberattacks, and other illicit behavior.


“I applaud Treasury for sanctioning one of the world’s most notorious human rights abusers, Kim Jong Un, as well as top officials and individuals and entities who enable the imprisonment of an estimated 200,000 men, women, and children in North Korea,” said Gardner. “My North Korean Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act recognized that in order to peacefully disarm the North Korean regime, sanctions must extend beyond those who contribute to proliferation activities and address severe human rights abusers. Today’s designation is a pivot away from the Obama Administration’s previous failed strategy of ‘strategic patience’ toward the regime and represents a significant step toward addressing North Korea’s increasingly belligerent behavior.” 


The Treasury Department began implementing Gardner’s bill in March, shortly after it was signed into law. In June, Treasury designated North Korea as a “primary money laundering concern,” a move that further isolates North Korea from the international financial system by prohibiting all direct and indirect contact of North Korea-linked entities with the U.S. financial system. In April, Gardner met with Acting Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Adam Szubin, who is the official primarily responsible for enforcing U.S. economic sanctions policy. As Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy, Gardner asked Szubin for status of the implementation of his North Korea sanctions legislation.


Cory Gardner is a member of the U.S. Senate serving Colorado. He sits on the Energy & Natural Resources Committee, the Foreign Relations Committee, the Commerce, Science, & Transportation Committee, and the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Committee, and is the Chairman of the Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy.

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