U.S. cutting off North Korea’s sources of foreign currency

JIJI, Kyodo

The United States is focusing on cutting off North Korea’s foreign currency sources to increase pressure on Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear program, a senior State Department official said Tuesday.

“We’re focusing our efforts on cutting off sources of revenue for the regime’s unlawful nuclear and ballistic weapons programs, including revenue generated through the coal trade and overseas by North Korean workers,” Daniel Russel, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, said in a statement prepared for a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee hearing.

Japan, the United States and South Korea will “continue to increase the costs on North Korea and target its revenue and reputation until it makes a strategic decision to return to serious talks on denuclearization,” Russel said.

In March, U.S. President Barack Obama issued an executive order authorizing sanctions against individuals and groups involved in exportation of workers from North Korea.

U.S. authorities are currently working to determinate North Korean and foreign organizations arranging such exportation.

Russel told the hearing that the United States will deploy its Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile shield to South Korea as soon as possible.

South Korea’s Unification Ministry said Thursday that North Korea is believed to have combined two units of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea that handled funds for leader Kim Jong Un.

Under the move, Office No. 39 has remained intact as the special unit managing state coffers, while Office No. 38 has been disbanded.

Previous reports had claimed two departments had been merged in 2009 under the rule of the previous leader Kim Jong Il, and had been separated again the following year.

Office No. 39 is widely believed to control the generation and management of hard currency earned overseas, while reports have suggested Office No. 38 dealt with cash generated domestically.

The former has made international headlines due to its alleged activity in counterfeiting, illegal drugs and financial institutions. It is also believed to be behind the numerous North Korean-run restaurants dotted across Asia.