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The real victims of sanctions

Jan 01,2018
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The UN Security Council on Dec. 22 adopted Resolution 2397 — the 10th of its kind — to block additional oil supply and foreign currency from entering North Korea after its test launch in November of a Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile that could allegedly strike the U.S. mainland.

The UN resolution lowered the upper limit of refined oil supply to 500,000 barrels per year from two million barrels. The resolution also demanded that member nations expel 60,000 North Korean workers in their countries within two years.

The upper limit of four million barrels of crude oil per year will be maintained, but the resolution warned that the Security Council could stop all petroleum supply if the recalcitrant state conducts another nuclear or ICBM test.

Security experts anticipate that the latest UN resolution will have a strong impact on North Korea’s general traffic and freight transportation — not to mention energy supply at state-run companies and large buildings — as the sanctions could hit 90 percent of the country’s refined oil need. Supply of electricity and heating oil for ordinary households will naturally be tightened.

The UN Security Council expects North Korea will not face a serious energy dearth as it allowed China to maintain its annual amount of petroleum supply — 3.64 million barrels — to North Korea. But if all overseas North Korean workers are deported soon, that is expected to cost North Korea revenue of up to $2 billion.

Besides clothing and fish products, the resolution also bans North Korea from exporting food, machines, minerals, sand, lumber and ships. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday underscored that the resolution will cut off up to 90 percent of the money that North Korea can use for nuclear weapons development.

The UN resolutions against North Korea target its leader, Kim Jong-un, but cannot find ways to minimize the impact on ordinary citizens there. In a New York Times op-ed, the head of an association of Korean-American doctors said North Koreans are struggling to buy food due to skyrocketing prices. We are “punishing the most vulnerable citizens and shackling the ability of humanitarian agencies to deliver aid to them,” Kee B. Park wrote.

Heidi Linton, executive director of the Christian Friends of Korea, an organization devoted to helping North Koreans, said the sanctions have made it difficult to purchase necessary supplies to treat tuberculosis, hepatitis and dirty water. “The situation will only get worse,” she said.

The UN Security Council’s resolution expressed deep concerns about the hardships that ordinary North Koreans — pregnant women and breast-fed babies in particular — have to suffer as a result of the sanctions. But as long as North Korea pours money into its expensive weapons program, the plight of ordinary North Korean citizens will surely get worse this year.

JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 30, Page 26

*The author is the Washington correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

JUNG HYO-SIK