The United States placed new sanctions on North Korea Friday in retaliation for what it claims is the country’s involvement in the November 24 cyberattack against Sony Pictures Entertainment.
The U.S. directed the new sanctions against three North Korean government agencies, as well as 10 high-ranking government officials, reports CNBC. The sanctions against North Korea’s Reconnaissance General Bureau, Korea Mining Development Trading Corp., and the Korea Tangun Trading Corp. come in response to the country’s “ongoing provocative, destabilizing and repressive actions and policies, particularly its destructive and coercive cyberattack on Sony Pictures Entertainment,” the White House said in a statement.
President Obama issued an Executive Order directing the Treasury Department to freeze the ability of the North Korean agencies to do business with American companies, or participate in the U.S. economic system.
“The actions taken today under the authority of the President’s new Executive Order will further isolate key North Korean entities and disrupt the activities of close to a dozen critical North Korean operatives,” Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said in a statement. “We will continue to use this broad and powerful tool to expose the activities of North Korean government officials and entities.”
North Korea has denied involvement in the crippling November cyberattack against Sony, which saw thousands of sensitive company documents and several unreleased feature films leaked online. A hacking group calling themselves Guardians of Peace had taken credit for the hack. The FBI has maintained that North Korea was involved in the attack, although some in the intelligence community have cast doubt on the FBI’s evidence.
Others believe the new sanctions on North Korea will have little practical effect.
“How do you sanction the world’s most heavily-sanctioned country?” Northeast Asia specialist John Park asked CNBC. “Every time you apply sanctions to a target, it forces them to innovate and get around sanctions.”
Jack Pritchard, former ambassador to the DPRK from 2001-2003, told CNBC that the sanctions against the individual North Korean government officials are meant to address that problem, particularly since many of them are working in countries outside North Korea like China, Russia, Syria, and Iran.
“The financial portion is what hurts them the most,” Pritchard told CNBC. “I would not underestimate the value of financial sanctions.”
The Guardians of Peace hacking group claimed their cyberattack against Sony Pictures Entertainment came in response to the release of the comedy film The Interview, which depicts the bloody assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. After initially scrapping the film’s Christmas Day release, Sony ultimately screened the film in 331 independent theaters and several online outlets, including YouTube and Xbox. Sony announced this week that the film would expand into several hundred more theaters as well as pay-TV services like DirecTV and Comcast.