DOJ sues to forfeit $3M linked to N. Korean money laundering, proliferation financing & slave labor

This afternoon, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia filed suit to forfeit just over $3 million that three defendants allegedly laundered for an interconnected network of North Korean banks and front companies, in violation of the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act and the International Emergency Economic Powers Act: $599,930.00 in funds “associated with” Cooperating Company 1 of Singapore, which agreed not to contest the forfeiture (and hopefully more), and which used “a bank account in China”...

In “liberal” South Korea, three journalists go on trial for criminal defamation

Via Tara O: Journalist Byun Hee-jai of Mediawatch has been in jail since May 30, 2018. On the top right corner of the Mediawatch.kr website, it shows how many days Byun has been in jail. Byun was charged with libel for publishing a story that JTBC (a cable TV channel) manipulated the files on a tablet PC to make it appear that Choi Seo-won (Park Geun-hye’s friend, sometimes referred to as Choi Soon-sil) used the tablet. The false news about...

How engaging the wrong North Koreans set back openness, reform & peace

South Korea’s social-nationalist government, joined by too many Western academics of the sort who bask in its generosity and fear the withdrawal of it, has re-embraced the “Sunshine” hypothesis. This hypothesis equates nearly all economic “engagement” with North Korea’s military-industrial complex — also known as “the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” — with economic openness, and economic openness with political openness, disarmament, prosperity, and peace. The Western exemplar of no-questions-asked engagement is the NGO and media darling known as Choson Exchange. In 2015, Choson...

North Korea’s mining industry is collapsing, and steel may be next

OVER THE LAST YEAR, THE BRAVE COVERT CORRESPONDENTS of the Daily NK and Rimjin-gang have reported from inside North Korea on the effects of sanctions on North Korean industry. It’s now clear that those effects have been severe. That’s good news, because North Korea’s mining and steel industries are closely linked to its military and its WMD programs. It’s also terrible news, because a lot of people who depended on those industries are now living through some very hard times....

Moon Jae-in chases Kim Jong-un while South Korea’s economy burns

Just over a year ago, Bloomberg Opinion published an op-ed under the title, “Can South Korea Save Liberalism?” It purred that Moon Jae-in was “charting an entirely contrary course in economic policy than much of the rest of the developed world” that was “unapologetically … dependent on the kind of taxing and spending conservatives loathe.” “If successful,” it hypothesized, “the experiment could alter how governments tackle the most challenging problems of our day.” As recently as June, The Diplomat published...

DOJ indicts Singaporean businessman for conspiring to violate North Korea sanctions

The U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York has indicted Singaporean national Tan Wee Beng for laundering money on behalf of two sanctioned North Korean banks—Daedong Credit Bank of Panama Papers infamy, and Korea Kwangson Banking Corporation of Dandong Hongxiang infamy. Both banks have been designated and blocked for years under Executive Order 13382, for proliferation financing. Both banks are also designated by the U.N. Security Council. You can read the indictment here and the Justice Department’s...

Moon Jae-in’s unilateral sanctions violations are decoupling South Korea’s alliance with the U.S. (updated)

A FEW JOURNALISTS HAVE (if belated and partially) figured out that Moon Jae-in’s promises to Kim Jong-un would violate a series of U.N. Security Council sanctions. The latest example of this is Moon’s promise to start rebuilding a railroad connection to Kaesong and points north before the year ends. Let’s go to the resolutions to see what provisions this most clearly offends, starting with UNSCR 2321 … “32. Decides that all Member States shall prohibit public and private financial support from...

From Sunshine to solar eclipse: Can Moon Jae-in censor his way to reunification?

FOR MORE THAN 20 YEARS, THE STATED PREMISE OF THE SUNSHINE THEORY of “engagement” with the regime in Pyongyang has been that economic incentives and integration would gradually draw it into the community of civilized nations and spur political reform, disarmament, peace, and eventual reunification. The Sunshine Policy and its progeny promised that the gentle suasion of liberalization would win over even those responsible for “crimes against humanity, arising from ‘policies established at the highest level of State,’” including as complete an...

The U.S.-Korea alliance is “in jeopardy” & it’s not even (mostly) Trump’s fault

MAKING THE ROUNDS IN WASHINGTON THIS WEEK IS THIS MUST-READ REPORT, in Tokyo Business Today, by Stanford Professor Daniel Sneider: “Behind The Chaos Of Washington’s Korea Policy.” The report is based on Sneider’s discussions with insiders familiar with the administration’s North Korea negotiations and policymaking, and yes, you should be worried: [T]he spoken, and unspoken, aim of most professionals implementing North Korea policy is to hold off President Trump from meeting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un again. They worry...

New head of S. Korea’s ruling party once said North’s abuses were “not something other countries can intervene in”

ON SATURDAY, SOUTH KOREA’S RULING “DEMOCRATIC” PARTY PICKED LEE HAE-CHAN as its new Chairman. Lee, who previously served as Prime Minister under Roh Moo-hyun, promised “unwavering efforts toward … inter-Korean peace.” The Joongang Ilbo calls him “a staunch liberal.” Lee replaces Choo Mi-ae, another “liberal” who was fond of making public threats to sue opposition politicians for criminal libel. In South Korea, the term is also broad enough to include the President’s Chief of Staff, Im Jong-seok, who as far as anyone can...

Why the domestic troubles of Trump & Moon are grave news for Koreans

POLITICIANS DO THEIR WORST DIPLOMACY WHEN THEY’RE WEAK AT HOME. SCANDAL TEMPTS THEM TO SEEK GLORY ABROAD. The hyenas of the world’s ecosystem see them limp and decide to prey on them, or on the calves they can’t protect. Of Mr. Trump’s troubles, you already know plenty that I need not repeat here. Whatever your view of those troubles, they aren’t going away, and if you correctly acknowledge their political element, they’re apt to be more serious next January. The...

If the deal-maker didn’t make a deal & the peace-maker didn’t make peace, could Twitter be wrong?

DONALD TRUMP’S MOST LOYAL ADMIRERS ARE READY TO AWARD HIM A NOBEL PEACE PRIZE. These people actually believe that Agreed Framework III proves his hype about what a great deal-maker he is. Moon Jae-in’s most loyal admirers are ready to award him a Nobel Peace Prize. These people actually believe that the Panmunjom Summit proves his hype about what a great peace-maker he is. It often seems that everyone on Twitter but me belongs to one of these tribes, which despite...

A new report says South Korea spends more to influence Washington than Israel, China & Saudi Arabia combined

IN WASHINGTON, THERE IS GROWING UNEASE ABOUT how far and how fast South Korea’s anti-anti-North Korean President, Moon Jae-in, is moving to undermine the pressure of U.S. and U.N. sanctions before Pyongyang takes meaningful steps to disarm. The unease is greatest in Congress, where there is also unease that both Moon and Trump have done so much to legitimize a tyrant who would, in a more just world, be hauled before a tribunal and sentenced to spend the remainder of...

The Myth of Maximum Pressure: Why Trump’s North Korea sanctions strategy must change or fail

If you’re a journalist or scholar who writes about North Korea, you’re apt to think that the Trump administration really did impose more-or-less “maximum” pressure on Kim Jong-un, although this was never really true. If your understanding of sanctions is based on a 1980s concept of sanctions as trade blockades that require the cooperation of every customs inspector at the country’s border, you’re also apt to harbor several other misunderstandings about how sanctions work, and consequently, to add to the...

South Korea has been caught violating 3 UN resolutions this week (so far)

South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade now admits that it first suspected that subsidiaries of its national power company were importing North Korean coal as early as October 2017. For those of you who don’t do math, that was ten months ago. The result of that extensive ten-month investigation? Despite all the red flags that should have put everyone involved in this transaction on notice that they were buying North Korean coal right up until last week, the South...

South Korea implicated in large-scale violations of U.N. coal, shipping sanctions against North Korea

This week, a scandal is burgeoning in South Korea that a wholly owned subsidiary of the nation’s largest power company purchased large quantities of North Korean coal in violation of the coal export ban of UNSCR 2371. The other day, I tweeted about a Korean-language report in the right-leaning site Pennmike, indicating that a Belize-flagged ship carrying North Korean coal was spotted in the port of Pyeongtaek. We’ve since learned that this violation was part of a broader, long-standing, illicit...

Kaesong is a buffalo jump for amoral politicians & unlawyered cretins

Mark Lambert, who is a “U.S. State Department official in charge of Korean affairs,” and who is also a mensch, is in South Korea this week, where he will meet with Korean officials, and also with “a group of South Korean businesspeople involved in inter-Korean economic projects.” Over the course of 15 years, this blog has followed the various get-broke-quick buffalo jumps that promoters, most of them amoral politicians who specialize in throwing away other people’s money, euphemistically call “inter-Korean projects.”...