In an effort to thwart North Korea leader Kim Jong Il’s holiday joy, the Bush administration is using trade sanctions to bar imports of items that the communist leader enjoys.
According to a list obtained by the Associated Press, items such as plasma televisions and iPods are all blocked from Kim Jong Il’s grasp. This sanctions effort, in cooperation with the U.N., is the first ever to block specific goods not aimed at military purposes. U.S. officials are making it well known that its sanction on certain goods -- particularly high end electronics that cannot be manufactured in North Korea -- is an effort to annoy the North Korean leader.
The U.S. is not the only country partaking in the ban. Japan has already placed several items on its sanction list, including beef, caviar and fatty tuna, along with expensive cars, motorcycles, cameras and more. Japan already has electronics sanctions against North Korea, but this is the first time consumer goods have also found its way on that list.
Much of the list of banned items is tailored specifically against Kim Jong Il’s personal tastes. Kenji Fujimoto, a Japanese chef who defected in 2001, wrote a book about his time with the North Korean leader which gave the U.S. much insight to Kim Jong Il’s likes and dislikes. Despite its effort with the U.N., officials admit that enforcing the ban on the black-market would be near impossible.
"The problem is there has always been and will always be this group of people who work at getting these goods illegally," William Reinsch, a former senior Commerce Department official during the Clinton administration. While larger goods such as luxury cars are easier to track, small electronics, such as iPods or laptops, are "untraceable and available all over the place." Still, in Reinsch’s opinion, "It's a new concept; it's kind of creative."
"If you take away one of the tools of his control, perhaps you weaken the cohesion of his leadership," said Robert J. Einhorn, a former senior State Department. "It can't hurt, but whether it works, we don't know."