SEOUL: The United States blacklisted North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s right-hand man on Thursday, after UN Security Council voted unanimously to impose harsh new sanctions on the isolated state over its nuclear weapons programme.
Hwang Pyong So, vice chairman of the North’s powerful National Defence Commission headed by Kim, was one of several officials added to a list of Specially Designated Nationals by the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.
Hwang, who holds the rank of Vice-Marshal in the North Korean army, heads its General Political Bureau, often seen as the most powerful position in the military after Kim, who is the supreme commander.
North Korea faces tough new sanctions for its nuclear weapons programme under the resolution passed unanimously by the Security Council on Wednesday, drafted by the United States and backed by the North’s main ally China.
The US Treasury added Hwang to its list along with 16 individuals who are now subject to a travel ban and asset freeze. The measures are also designed to block US nationals from dealing with them.
It also added O Kuk Ryol, one of a geriatric trio said to be behind North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme.
Hwang, who is in his mid-60s, is a close confidant of Kim Jong Un and has had an unprecedented rise to the top rungs of North Korea’s leadership in the space of a few years.
He was associated with Kim in the late 2000s when the young man was first named in state media reports announcing his party and military credentials.
He was in the Organisation and Guidance Department (OGD), a powerful and secretive body that finalises appointments within North Korea’s leading circles and rose to be its second-in-command, according to South Korea’s unification ministry.