On June 15, 2023, the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control designated husband and wife, Choe Chol Min and Choe Un Jong, both Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (“DPRK”) nationals based in Beijing, for their alleged involvement in the procurement of equipment and materials for the DPRK ballistic missile program. According to OFAC, the DPRK continues to advance its ballistic missile program and develop weapons of mass destruction with the help of an extensive network of individuals in foreign countries, including the People’s Republic of China (“PRC”) and Iran, in violation of multiple UN Security Council resolutions.
OFAC reports that the newly designated individuals are part of a network of procurement agents — including DPRK diplomats and trade office officials — whose purpose is to obtain weapons components for the DPRK. The network has also utilized the Second Academy of Natural Sciences (“SANS”), a previously-designated national-level organization responsible for the research and development of DPRK’s advanced weapons systems. Choe Chol Min, a SANS representative, was designated for working with DPRK weapons trading officials and PRC nationals to procure various items used in the production of ballistic missiles in the DPRK. According to OFAC, Choe Chol Min has also obtained electronic equipment for Iranian customers. He has been designated pursuant to Executive Order 13382 for acting on behalf of SANS, an entity that is blocked pursuant to EO 13382.
Also designated is Choe Chol Min’s wife, Choe Un Jong, who works in the DPRK Embassy in the PRC, for helping coordinate with SANS to place an order for dual-use bearings for the production of ballistic missiles in the DPRK. Choe Un Jong was designated pursuant to EO 13810 for being a North Korean person that has engaged in commercial activity that generated revenue for the Government or North Korea.
As a result of these designations, all property and interests in property of the designees within the United States or within the possession or control of a US person are blocked, and US persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions involving the designated person. Entities owned 50 percent or more by one or more designated persons are also blocked. In addition, any foreign financial institution that engages in certain transactions with a designee risks exposure to secondary sanctions, and any entity that knowingly facilitates a significant transaction for a designated individual could be subject to US correspondent or payable-through account sanctions.