Sanctions Targeting North Korea


On November 27, 2017, the US State Department published a notice in the Federal Register that North Korea was designated as a State Sponsor of Terrorism (“SST”) on November 17, 2017. North Korea was originally designated as an SST in 1988 in connection with the bombing of a Korean Air flight but was delisted in 2008 by President George W. Bush as part of negotiations over its nuclear program.

Today, taking effect at 6pm CET, the Swiss Federal Council further tightened sanctions against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), implementing UN Security Council Resolutions 2371 (2017) and 2375 (2017). As a consequence of the North Korean rocket tests on 3 and 28 July and the nuclear test on 2 September this year, in contravention of all previous UN Security Council Resolutions, on 5 August 2017 the UN Security Council issued Resolution 2371 (2017), closely followed by Resolution 2375 on 11 September 2017, tightening considerably the sanctions already imposed on North Korea. The resolutions include additional sanctions on the trade in goods, on the financial sector and on work permits. The Swiss Federal Council’s decree of today, 18 October 2017, implements these measures, which are binding under international law, by amending the Swiss Ordinance on Measures against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea of 18 May 2016. Work permits may no longer be issued to citizens of North Korea, with the exception of permits issued under employment contracts concluded before 11 September 2017. In the financial sector, joint ventures and cooperatives, both ongoing and new, with North Korean individuals or companies are no longer permitted. Existing joint ventures and cooperatives must be discontinued by 9 January 2018 at the latest.

On September 21, 2017, President Trump issued an Executive Order (“Order”) imposing additional sanctions on North Korea.  The Order is aimed at curbing North Korea’s ability to fund its nuclear and ballistic missile programs by giving the Secretary of the Treasury additional tools to target non-US persons engaging in trade with North Korea and non-US financial institutions supporting such trade.

In a continuing effort to pressure and isolate North Korea by targeting entities and individuals in third countries, on Tuesday, August 22, 2017, the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) and US Justice Department (“DOJ”) announced sanctions and a civil forfeiture action, respectively, targeting Chinese and Russian entities accused of directly or indirectly assisting or supporting North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. China is North Korea’s primary trading partner and these actions appear to be an effort, in part, to ramp up pressure on China to assist in curtailing its neighbor’s nuclear ambitions.