Series 45 | Episode 3: What is the Office of Foreign Assets Control?

In other energy news, OFAC also blocked two companies in Singapore and three prominent Russian individuals from providing oil to North Korea.

Let’s stop for a second: blocking, or sanctioning, just means cutting off their access to U.S. entities and financial markets and any other resources under the nonmilitary control of the United States. It doesn’t mean we’re hacking in and blocking something or moving troops or something. We’re essentially just cutting them off, but they could go elsewhere, which is why you may often hear that “sanctions don’t work.”

There are two more sections to these sanctions: WMDs and guestworkers.

In short, we all know what WMD’s are…and where they aren’t. Anyway, North Korea is obviously in love with them so we’re trying to stop that, which brings us back to DanDong. The rest is pretty self-explanatory. North Korea wants to blow stuff up. I’ll spare you the details of specifics metals being blocked, like vanadium and other rare-earth metals that China pretty much has a monopoly on because they really only exist there.

Finally, their guestworker program is interesting. North Korea sends its most loyal citizens abroad to do anything from working on construction projects to working in restaurants. It’s possible you may have been served by a North Korean when you were visiting Southeast Asia. They’re also in Western Europe. They’re pretty much everywhere.

Worldwide, we’re trying to incentivize companies to stop employing these workers because all the money they make goes right to Kim Jong Un and his nuclear program. Not just all the profits after paying the workers but all the money. They’re not paid. However, they believe it’s an honor to be selected to go abroad. Some have even used this as a way to defect.

OFAC sanctioned MOPATS, which is short for Mansudae Overseas Projects Architectural and and Technical Services because it works for Mansudae Group, which was already sanctioned by the United Nations on August 5, 17 days before these OFAC sanctions.

Finally, OFAC sanctioned a company in my favorite Chinese city of Qingdao because of its employment of these guest workers. To be clear, the Qingdao assets being sanctioned are actually owned and controlled by assets in Namibia that are being operated and controlled by China. In fact, a lot in Namibia has been controlled by China for a while now because of massive debt contracts they signed with China and now can’t pay. Sanctioned entitles here are the individual Kim Tong-Chol (no relation to Kim Jong Un himself) and Qingdao Construction Company, which was determined to be aiding Mansudae.

For a full list of these people and entities, you can click here and even see their passport numbers, home and office addresses, gender, and other identifiers.

So what’s going on here?

Return to Series: Sanctioning China

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