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US identifies top North Korean officials as responsible for human rights abuses and censorship

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Kim Il Jong – North Korean leader

The US State Department has released a report on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) detailing human rights abuses and censorship and identifying seven top officials and two entities as being responsible for serious human rights abuses or censorship in the country.

These individuals and two entities are Kim Won Hong (Minister of State Security), Kim Yo Jong (Vice Director of the Propaganda and Agitation Department), Choe Hwi (Vice Director KWP Propaganda and Agitation Department), Kim Il-nam (Chief of South Hamgyong Province State Security), Min Byong Chol (Director of the Inspection Division of the Organization and Guidance Department), Jo Yong-won (Vice Director of the Organization and Guidance Department), Kang Pil Hoon (Director of the Political Bureau in the Ministry of People’s Security), the State Planning Commission, and the Ministry of Labor.

The Department of the Treasury is also adding the seven individuals and two entities to the List of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons, the report said.

The report represents a continuation of US government efforts to name those responsible for or associated with the worst aspects of the North Korean government’s repression, including serious human rights abuses and censorship, according to a press release from the US Department of State.

It further said human rights abuses in the DPRK remain among the worst in the world. The North Korean government continues to commit extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and detentions, forced labor, and torture. Many of these abuses are committed in the political prison camps, where an estimated 80,000 to 120,000 individuals are detained, including children and family members of those subject to persecution and censorship.

The systemic and oppressive nature of the North Korean government’s censorship and information denial remains omnipresent.

It assured that “We will continue to identify more individuals and entities in future reports as part of our on-going efforts to promote accountability for North Korean officials.”

“With these efforts, we are sending a signal to all DPRK government officials, particularly prison camp officials, interrogators, and border guards, that we can and will expose human rights abuses and censorship in the DPRK,” it warned.

Both the State Department report and actions by the Treasury Department are consistent with the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act of 2016, signed by the President into law on February 18, 2016.

By Pamela Ofori-Boateng

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