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US places sanctions on North Korea for hacking Sony

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The 'first aspect' of US government's response was carried out today

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

In what's described as the "first" response to the cyberattack against Sony Pictures Entertainment, the Obama administration today announced new sanctions against North Korea. These sanctions are separate from those already imposed against Pyongyang over the country's nuclear program and come in response to "recent provocations," the US Treasury Department said in a press release. President Obama signed an executive order authorizing the sanctions earlier today.

"This step reflects the ongoing commitment of the United States to hold North Korea accountable for its destabilizing, destructive and repressive actions, particularly its efforts to undermine US cyber-security and intimidate US businesses and artists exercising their right of freedom of speech," the Treasury said.

The retaliation has officially begun

The sanctions target three North Korean entities, including the government's primary intelligence agency and a local arms dealer. Ten people affiliated with those entities and the North Korean government are also being hit with sanctions. Sanctioned businesses and individuals are barred from accessing the United States financial system, and American citizens are strictly forbidden from carrying out business with those named in today's retaliatory measure.

"Today’s actions are driven by our commitment to hold North Korea accountable for its destructive and destabilizing conduct," said Secretary of the Treasury Jacob J. Lew. "Even as the FBI continues its investigation into the cyber-attack against Sony Pictures Entertainment, these steps underscore that we will employ a broad set of tools to defend US businesses and citizens, and to respond to attempts to undermine our values or threaten the national security of the United States."

The White House describing today's move as "the first aspect" of its response to the massive hack against Sony Pictures also suggests it's denying involvement with North Korea's recent internet problems. After the FBI officially blamed Pyongyang for the debilitating cyber assault that Sony is still reeling from, President Obama pledged that the US would respond "in a place and time and manner that we choose." Again today, his administration vowed that the retaliation would be "proportional."

The full list of entities and people impacted by today's sanctions follows below, sourced from the US Treasury:

Reconnaissance General Bureau (RGB): RGB is North Korea’s primary intelligence organization and is involved, inter alia, in a range of activities to include conventional arms trade proscribed by numerous United Nations Security Council Resolutions. RGB was previously listed in the annex to E.O. 13551 on August 30, 2010.  RGB is responsible for collecting strategic, operational, and tactical intelligence for the Ministry of the People’s Armed Forces. Many of North Korea’s major cyber operations run through RGB.

Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation (KOMID): KOMID is North Korea’s primary arms dealer and main exporter of goods and equipment related to ballistic missiles and conventional weapons.  KOMID, a North Korean state-owned entity, was previously listed in the annex to E.O. 13382 on July 1, 2005 for its role in North Korea’s proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.  It was also sanctioned by the United Nations in April 2009.  KOMID has offices in multiple countries around the world and facilitates weapons sales for the North Korean government.

Korea Tangun Trading Corporation is subordinate to the Second Academy of Natural Sciences and is primarily responsible for the procurement of commodities and technologies to support North Korea's defense research and development programs, including materials that are controlled under the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) or the Australia Group.  Tangun Trading Corporation was designated by the Department of State pursuant to E.O. 13382 in September 2009 and was designated by the United Nations in 2009.  The identifier information for this designated entity is also being updated to include several aliases it uses to operate internationally.  The new aliases for Korea Tangun Trading Corporation include Ryung Seng Trading Corporation, Ryungseng Trading Corporation, and Ryungsong Trading Corporation.

Kil Jong Hun and Kim Kwang Yon are officials of the North Korean government and represent the southern African interests of KOMID. Kil Jong Hun is KOMID’s Representative in Namibia and an official of the North Korean government.

Jang Song Chol is a KOMID representative in Russia and an official of the North Korean government.  He is working with individuals in Sudan who are procuring materials from him.

Yu Kwang Ho is an official of the North Korean government.

Kim Yong Chol is a KOMID Representative in Iran and an official of the North Korean Government.

Jang Yong Son is a KOMID Representative in Iran and an official of the North Korean government.

Kim Kyu is the KOMID External Affairs Officer and an official of the North Korean government.

Ryu Jin and Kang Ryong are KOMID officials operating in Syria and are officials of the North Korean government.

Kim Kwang Chun is a Korea Tangun Trading Corporation representative in Shenyang, China and an official of the North Korean government.