4224d7fe 30ed 426f b791 288693e27f1d 853fd09d US North Korea sanctions target individuals, Russia, China and UAE-based firms


eb6ad66f0c3807f7dfd34a74d3a54a51 US North Korea sanctions target individuals, Russia, China and UAE-based firms
FILE PHOTO: The U.S Treasury building in Washington.

(Reuters) – The United States on Wednesday announced sanctions on six individuals and two entities based in Russia, China and the United Arab Emirates, accusing them of channeling funds to North Korea’s weapons programs.

A U.S. Treasury Department statement said the action was taken in coordination with South Korea.

It named the six individuals as Yu Pu Ung, Ri Tong Hyok, Han Chol Man, O In Chun, Jong Song Ho and Jon Yon Gun.

The entities to be hit with sanctions were Alis LLC, based in Vladivostok, Russia, and UAE-based Pioneer Bencont Star Real Estate.

The statement said both firms were subordinate to Chinyong Information Technology Cooperation Co, an entity associated with North Korea’s armed forces.

The Treasury Department said Chinyong, which was placed under U.S. sanctions in May 2023, uses a network of companies and representatives to manage delegations of North Korean IT workers operating in Russia and Laos.

The announcement came after the United States and South Korea this week launched a new task force aimed at preventing North Korea from procuring illicit oil, as a deadlock at the United Nations Security Council casts doubts over the future of international sanctions on Pyongyang.

Years of U.S.-led international sanctions have failed to halt North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile programs, and many North Korea watchers and sanctions experts consider the U.N. regime moribund, if not already dead.

1. What is OFAC and what does it do?  

The Office of Foreign Assets Control administers and enforces economic sanctions programs primarily against countries and groups of individuals, such as terrorists and narcotics traffickers. The sanctions can be either comprehensive or selective, using the blocking of assets and trade restrictions to accomplish foreign policy and national security goals.

Released on September 10, 2002

2. How long has OFAC been around?

The Treasury Department has a long history of dealing with sanctions. Dating back prior to the War of 1812, Secretary of the Treasury Gallatin administered sanctions imposed against Great Britain for the harassment of American sailors. During the Civil War, Congress approved a law which prohibited transactions with the Confederacy, called for the forfeiture of goods involved in such transactions, and provided a licensing regime under rules and regulations administered by Treasury.

OFAC is the successor to the Office of Foreign Funds Control (the “FFC”), which was established at the advent of World War II following the German invasion of Norway in 1940. The FFC program was administered by the Secretary of the Treasury throughout the war. The FFC’s initial purpose was to prevent Nazi use of the occupied countries’ holdings of foreign exchange and securities and to prevent forced repatriation of funds belonging to nationals of those countries. These controls were later extended to protect assets of other invaded countries. After the United States formally entered World War II, the FFC played a leading role in economic warfare against the Axis powers by blocking enemy assets and prohibiting foreign trade and financial transactions.

3. What does one mean by the term “prohibited transactions”?

Prohibited transactions are trade or financial transactions and other dealings in which U.S. persons may not engage unless authorized by OFAC or expressly exempted by statute. Because each program is based on different foreign policy and national security goals, prohibitions may vary between programs.

Released on June 16, 2006

4. Are there exceptions to the prohibitions?

Yes. OFAC regulations often provide general licenses authorizing the performance of certain categories of transactions. OFAC also issues specific licenses on a case-by-case basis under certain limited situations and conditions. Guidance on how to request a specific license is found below and at 31 C.F.R. 501.801.

To apply for a specific license, please go to our License Application Page.

Released on June 16, 2006

6. Where can I find the specific details about the embargoes?

A summary description of each particular embargo or sanctions program may be found in the Sanctions Programs and Country Information area and in the Guidance and Information for Industry Groups area on OFAC’s website. The text of Legal documents may be found in the Legal Documents area of OFAC’s website which contains the text of 31 C.F.R. Chapter V and appropriate amendments to that Chapter which have appeared in the Federal Register.

Released on May 21, 2018

7. Can I get permission from OFAC to transact or trade with an embargoed country?

OFAC usually has the authority by means of a specific license to permit a person or entity to engage in a transaction which otherwise would be prohibited. In some cases, however, legislation may restrict that authority.

To apply for a specific license, please go to our License Application Page.

Released on September 10, 2002

What countries do I need to worry about in terms of U.S. sanctions?

OFAC administers a number of U.S. economic sanctions and embargoes that target geographic regions and governments. Some programs are comprehensive in nature and block the government and include broad-based trade restrictions, while others target specific individuals and entities. (Please see the “Sanctions Programs and Country Information” page for information on specific programs.) It is important to note that in non-comprehensive programs, there may be broad prohibitions on dealings with countries, and also against specific named individuals and entities. The names are incorporated into OFAC’s list of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (“SDN list”) which includes approximately 6,400 names of companies and individuals who are connected with the sanctions targets. In addition, OFAC maintains other sanctions lists that may have different prohibitions associated with them. A number of the named individuals and entities are known to move from country to country and may end up in locations where they would be least expected. U.S. persons are prohibited from dealing with SDNs wherever they are located and all SDN assets are blocked. Entities that a person on the SDN List owns (defined as a direct or indirect ownership interest of 50% or more) are also blocked, regardless of whether that entity is separately named on the SDN List. Because OFAC’s programs are dynamic, it is very important to check OFAC’s website on a regular basis to ensure that your sanctions lists are current and you have complete information regarding the latest restrictions affecting countries and parties with which you plan to do business.

Released on May 21, 2018

The announcement came after the United States and South Korea this week launched a new task force aimed at preventing North Korea from procuring illicit oil, as a deadlock at the United Nations Security Council casts doubts over the future of international sanctions on Pyongyang.

Today’s action targets agents of designated DPRK banks along with companies that employ DPRK IT workers abroad. DPRK banking representatives, IT workers, and the companies that employ them generate revenue and gain access to foreign currencies vital to the Kim regime. These actors, operating primarily through networks located in Russia and China, orchestrate schemes, set up front or shell companies, and manage surreptitious bank accounts to move and disguise illicit funds, evade sanctions, and finance the DPRK’s unlawful WMD and ballistic missile programs.  

“Today’s joint action reflects our commitment to disrupt the DPRK’s efforts to generate revenue for its illicit and destabilizing activities,” said Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson. “The United States, along with our South Korean partners, will continue to take action to safeguard the international financial system and prevent the DPRK from funding its illegal weapons programs.”


The DPRK regime continues to use overseas representatives of state-owned entities and banks to access the international financial system. These individuals have overseas posts in China and Russia, where they coordinate payments and generate revenue for the DPRK.  

Yu Pu Ung is a linchpin in the DPRK’s illicit financial activities and is skilled at employing various schemes to avoid detectionYu Pu Ung and Ri Tong Hyok are both China-based representatives of Tanchon Bank. Tanchon Bank is the financial arm of the DPRK’s U.S.- and UN-designated Korea Mining Development Corporation (KOMID) and plays a role in financing KOMID’s sales of ballistic missiles. KOMID is the DPRK’s premiere arms dealer and main exporter of goods and equipment related to ballistic missiles and conventional weapons. Yu Pu Ung uses funds from DPRK IT groups to supply WMD-related materials to DPRK munitions organizations. Additionally, Yu Pu Ung has provided funds to a China-based representative of the UN- and U.S.-designated Second Academy of Natural Sciences (SANS). Yu Pu Ung and Ri Tong Hyok are being designated pursuant to E.O. 13382 for acting or purporting to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, Tanchon Bank.

Han Chol Man is a Shenyang, China-based representative of U.S- and UN-designated Kumgang Bank. From 2019 to 2023, Han Chol Man coordinated or facilitated over $1 million in payments between China and DPRK for several DPRK banks. During 2023, Han Chol Man coordinated over $600,000 in payment orders with a bank that is subordinate to the U.S. and UN-designated Munitions Industry Department (MID). Han Chol Man is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13722 for acting or purporting to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, of Kumgang Bank.

O In Chun is a Russia-based representative of U.S- and UN-designated Korea Daesong Bank, which is operated by the U.S.-designated Office 39. The DPRK government uses Office 39 to engage in illicit economic activities, manage slush funds, and generate revenue for DPRK leadership. Furthermore, O In Chun worked to unfreeze funds on behalf of a bank that is subordinate to the U.S.-and UN-designated MID. O In Chun is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13551 for acting or purporting to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, Korea Daesong Bank.


The DPRK has dispatched thousands of highly skilled IT workers around the world, earning revenue for the DPRK that contributes to its weapons programs in violation of U.S. and UN sanctions. On May 23, 2023, OFAC designated the Chinyong Information Technology Cooperation Company (Chinyong), an entity associated with the DPRK Ministry of Peoples’ Armed Forces. Chinyong uses a network of companies and representatives under its control to manage delegations of DPRK IT workers operating in Russia and Laos. Today’s designations expand on this action by sanctioning two companies subordinate to Chinyong and one individual that leads an IT delegation.

Limited Liability Company Alis (Alis LLC) is a Vladivostok, Russia-based company subordinate to U.S-designated Chinyong, which has made payments to its parent company. Between 2021 and 2022, Alis LLC made payments to its parent company that totaled more than $2.5 million. Pioneer Bencont Star Real Estate is a UAE-based company subordinate to Chinyong. The team-lead for this company, Jon Yon Gun, was involved in coordinating payments from Pioneer Bencont Star Real Estate to Chinyong.

Pioneer Bencont Star Real Estate and Alis LLC are being designated pursuant to E.O. 13687.  for being owned or controlled by, or acting or purporting to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, Chinyong.

Jon Yon Gun is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13687 for having materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of, Pioneer Bencont Star Real Estate. 

Today, the ROK is also designating Alis LLC and Pioneer Bencont Star Real Estate, for engaging in the dispatch and operations of the overseas DPRK IT workers. The ROK designated Jon Yon Gun on May 5, 2023, for his involvement in DPRK IT worker related activities.

If my financial institution receives a wire going to an embassy in a sanctioned country, can we process the transaction?

Every transaction that a U.S. financial institution engages in is subject to OFAC regulations. If a bank knows or has reason to know that a target is party to a transaction, the bank’s processing of the transaction would be unlawful.

Released on September 10, 2002

If a loan meets underwriting standards but is a true “hit” on OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list, what do we use as a denial reason on the adverse action notice?

If you have confirmed with OFAC that you have a “good hit” on the SDN list or one of OFAC’s other sanctions lists, there is no reason not to explain that to the customer. The customer can contact OFAC directly for further information.

Released on September 10, 2002

Can U.S. financial institutions open correspondent accounts for Iraqi financial institutions, or process funds transfers to and from Iraqi financial institutions?

Yes, U.S. financial institutions are authorized to open correspondent accounts for, and process funds transfer to or on behalf of Iraqi financial institutions.

Released on July 27, 2004

Does a financial institution have the obligation to screen account beneficiaries for compliance with OFAC regulations?

“Property,” as defined in OFAC regulations, includes most products that financial institutions offer to their clients. “Property interest,” as defined by OFAC, includes any interest whatsoever, direct or indirect, present, future or contingent. Given these definitions and as a matter of sound banking practice, it is prudent for financial institutions to screen account beneficiaries upon account opening, while updating account information, when performing periodic screening and, most definitely, upon disbursing funds. Where there is a property interest of a sanctions target under a blocking program, the property must be blocked. Beneficiaries include, but are not limited to, trustees, children, spouses, non-spouses, entities and powers of attorney.

Released on December 4, 2006

Firms operating in the securities industry as custodians and securities intermediaries often face the question of how to accurately identify the beneficial owner of assets within an account or transaction. What can these firms do to protect themselves from the risk of directly or indirectly providing services to—or dealing in property in which there is an ownership or other interest of—parties subject to sanctions?

OFAC encourages firms operating in the securities industry, including securities intermediaries and custodians, to implement measures that mitigate the risk of providing services to, or dealing in property in which there is an ownership or other interest of, parties subject to U.S. sanctions. Such measures should be tailored to and commensurate with the sanctions risk posed by a firm’s business activities. Best practices include:

  • Making customers aware of the firm’s U.S. sanctions compliance obligations and having customers agree in writing not to use their account(s) with the firm in a manner that could cause a violation of OFAC sanctions. Sanctions may be implicated when the United States is the jurisdiction of issuance or custody of an underlying security or when a U.S. person acts as a custodian or other service provider.

  • Conducting due diligence, including through the use of questionnaires and certifications, to identify customers who do business in or with countries or persons subject to U.S. sanctions. Such customers may warrant enhanced due diligence because of an increased risk that they will use their accounts to hold assets or conduct transactions for third parties subject to sanctions.

  • Imposing restrictions and heightened due diligence requirements on the use of certain products or services by customers who are judged to present a high risk from an OFAC sanctions perspective. Restrictions might include limitations on the use of omnibus accounts, where a lack of transparency can be exploited in order to circumvent OFAC regulations.

  • Making efforts to understand the nature and purpose of non-proprietary accounts, including requiring information regarding third parties whose assets may be held in the accounts. Red flags may arise relating to geographic areas or the nesting of third-party assets.

  • Monitoring accounts to detect unusual or suspicious activity – for example, unexplained significant changes in the value, volume, and types of assets within an account. These types of changes may indicate that a customer is facilitating new business for third parties that has not been vetted for possible sanctions implications.

Released on January 23, 2014

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