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The Patheticism of U.S. Sanctions on North Korea

by

Officials of the Sheraton Hotel might be experiencing some sleepless nights as a result of what they recently did at the Winter Olympics in South Korea. A five-star Sheraton Hotel permitted Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, to stay there during her official visit to the Olympic Games. If they did that without the permission of U.S. officials, they might just find themselves the targets of severe punishment at the hands of U.S. bureaucrats.

Why might that incur the ire of U.S. officials? Because U.S. officials have Kim Yo Jong on their list of North Koreans specifically targeted for U.S. sanctions. If the Sheraton permitted her to stay there without securing the permission of U.S. officials, they might soon find that U.S. officials can be as vicious as their North Korean counterparts.

Just ask Bert Sacks, the American citizen from Washington State who dared to violate U.S. sanctions against the Iraqi people. Horrified by the high death toll among Iraqi children from the sanctions, Sachs decided to take medicines into Iraq knowing full well that he was violating the sanctions. U.S. officials went after him with a vengeance that bordered on the pathological. Fining him $10,000 for daring to violate their sacred sanctions, a fine that Sachs refused to pay, U.S. officials pursued him for more than a decade in their attempt to collect not just the fine but also extremely high penalties and interest. (For more on the remarkable story of Sack’s heroic resistance to the U.S. sanctions on the Iraqi people, see here.)

It’s what they do to anyone who dares to violate their sacred sanctions. That’s why even big and powerful international businessmen quiver and quake whenever they are faced with the possibility that they are violating U.S. sanctions. They know what U.S. officials will do them if they violate them.

Consider Samsung, for example. It has a policy of giving out smartphones to the Olympic athletes, not only as a means of communication but also so that they will be able to take photos of their Olympic experience.

Not so for the North Korean athletes, who won’t be taking any selfies home with them. No, not because they might be punished by North Korean officials for having something by which they could access the Internet but because Samsung was scared to death that they would be violating U.S. sanctions if they gave free phones to the North Korean athletes. Samsung officials were scared of what the U.S. government, not the Korean government, might do to them.

Is that pathetic or what?

That’s not all.

A North Korean 229-member cheerleading squad, consisting of an “army of beauties,” has mesmerized the crowds and the press at the Olympics. They came down from North Korea in a huge ferry, where North Korean officials required them to stay to prevent their learning too much about life in South Korea and to prevent defections.

But a big problem arose with the ferry. After it arrived, it was low on fuel and asked the South Koreans to refuel it. South Korean officials were scared to death. They just didn’t know how the U.S. government would react to what would amount to a clear violation of sanctions. According to an article in the New York Times, “As of Wednesday evening, the South had not decided whether to supply the fuel.”

Pathetic. Absolutely pathetic.

According to the Times’ article, the sanctions problem extends to hockey sticks and uniforms. When North Korea’s hockey team showed up at a tournament in New Zealand last year, they brought their battered wooden sticks with them. The organizers lent them high-tech carbon fiber sticks but required they return them before going home for fear of what U.S. officials would do to them for violating the sanctions.

Nike is another company afraid of antagonizing the U.S. government. Despite being an official Olympics sponsor, it decided to let a Finnish company furnish the uniforms for the Korean hockey team for fear of violating the sanctions.

U.S. officials decided to be nice to Asiana Airlines. It granted the airlines permission an “exception” to the sanctions by permitting it to enter U.S. airspace after flying South Korean hockey players to train in North Korea. The sanctions require that when a plane flies into North Korea, it has to wait six months before entering U.S. airspace. Maybe U.S. officials are concerned with the spread of communist germs, which, theoretically, could lead to an expansion of such socialist programs as Social Security, Medicare, public schooling, and farm subsidies.

Vice President Pence was in attendance at the Olympics and, not surprisingly, spent all his time growling, scowling, and calling for increased enforcement of U.S. sanctions against the North Koreans. Agitated and angry over North Korea’s Olympics outreach to South Koreans, Pence was not amused by either the cheerleaders or Kim Yo Jong, who he pointedly refused to acknowledge when she was seated directly behind him during the opening ceremonies.

The last thing Pence or other U.S. officials want is for Americans to begin personalizing the North Koreans. Better that Americans continue thinking of everyone in North Korea as nothing more than a bunch of commies or commie sympathizers. It that way, Americans, including American Christians, will consider it to be no big deal to kill all of them, either with sanctions or, if war breaks out, with carpet-bombing of towns and villages, as the U.S. military did during the Korean War.

After all, don’t forget the purpose of the sanctions: To kill the North Korean populace, including those North Korean cheerleaders, through starvation and illness. The idea is that if enough of them are dying, either Kim Jong-un will abdicate in favor of a pro-U.S. dictator or the North Korean people will initiate a violent revolution and install a pro-U.S. dictator into power.

Neither one is going to happen. Kim Jong-un is not going to capitulate to U.S. extortion. And the North Korean people are never going to revolt, especially since they are all disarmed as a result of North Korea’s strict gun-control policy. Thus, the only thing that is going to happen is that the sanctions will continue to kill more and more North Koreans, especially in combination with North Korea’s socialist system.

Unfortunately, business people are not the only ones afraid of acting without getting the permission of U.S. officials. When Kim Yo Jong extended an invitation to South Korean president Moon Jae-in to visit North Korea, he deflected the invitation, no doubt scared to accept the invitation without first checking with U.S. officials to see if it was okay to accept.

Throughout the Olympics, the American right-wing has never ceased reminding us of the brutality of the North Korean regime. Well, duh. It is a communist regime. But I can’t help but wonder whether the North Korean people are more afraid of their government than Samsung, Nike, and other big businesses are scared of the U.S. government. I also can’t help but wonder whether it matters to a North Korean whether he dies from North Korean socialist policies or U.S. sanctions policies.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.