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Obama Orders New Sanctions on North Korea for Sony Hacking

President Obama has issued new sanctions on North Korea in response to the massive cyber-attacks against Sony.

Obama issued an executive order Friday authorizing the Treasury Dept. to impose additional sanctions in retaliation for “ongoing provocative, destabilizing, and repressive actions and policies, particularly its destructive and coercive cyber attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment,” a White House announcement said.

“We take seriously North Korea’s attack that aimed to create destructive financial effects on a U.S. company and to threaten artists and other individuals with the goal of restricting their right to free expression,” the statement added.

The executive order authorizes  sanctions against the government of North Korea and the Workers’ Party of Korea, the Treasury Dept. said in a statement. The new measures supplement existing sanctions against North Korea and eliminate access to the U.S. financial sector for 10 individuals and three government entities identified as key operatives in the hacking, which began Nov. 24 at the Culver City studio.

Sony released “The Interview,” which portrays the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, on VOD on Dec. 24 and in theaters on Christmas Day. The studio had decided on Dec. 17 to withdraw the film in the wake of a hacker threat of 9/11-style attacks on theaters, then did an about-face six days later after Obama said that pulling the film was a “mistake.”

The Interview” opened in 331 art-house theaters and grossed $3.8 million in its first eight days. Sony said the Seth Rogen-James Franco comedy also generated $15 million in its first four days on digital platforms.

As part of Friday’s announcement, the White House alluded to Obama’s Dec. 19 description of how the U.S. would respond to the hacking.

“As the president has said, our response to North Korea’s attack against Sony Pictures Entertainment will be proportional, and will take place at a time and in a manner of our choosing,” the White House said. “Today’s actions are the first aspect of our response.”

North Korean officials have insisted that their country was not involved in the hacking. U.S. officials have continued to blame North Korea. On Dec. 30, the FBI and The White House said they were standing by their assessment that the attack was state-sponsored in the face of the Norse Corp. security firm casting  doubt on that assertion.

Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said Friday the sanctions are driven by the commitment to hold North Korea accountable for its “destructive and destabilizing conduct.”

“Even as the FBI continues its investigation into the cyber-attack against Sony Pictures Entertainment, these steps underscore that we will employ a broad set of tools to defend U.S. businesses and citizens, and to respond to attempts to undermine our values or threaten the national security of the United States,” Lew said in a press release.

The entities named in Obama’s executive order for the new sanctions are the intelligence agency Reconnaissance General Bureau and two arms dealers — the Korea Mining Development Trading Corp. and the Korea Tangun Trading Corp.

Obama also issued a letter to congressional leaders, saying that North Korea’s hacking violated four U.N. Security Council resolutions. He said the cyber-attack represented “a continuing threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States.”

Obama issued the order from Hawaii, where he has been vacationing with his family.

“The order is not targeted at the people of North Korea, but rather is aimed at the government of North Korea and its activities that threaten the United States and others,” he said in the letter.

The 10 individuals were identified by the Treasury Department as follows:

*Kil Jong Hun and Kim Kwang Yon are officials of the North Korean government and represent the southern African interests of Komid. Kil Jong Hun is Komid’s representative in Namibia and an official of the North Korean government.

*Jang Song Chol is a Komid representative in Russia and an official of the North Korean government. He is working with individuals in Sudan who are procuring materials from him.

*Yu Kwang Ho is an official of the North Korean government.

* Kim Yong Chol is a Komid representative in Iran and an official of the North Korean Government.

* Jang Yong Son is a Komid representative in Iran and an official of the North Korean government.

*Kim Kyu is the Komid external affairs officer and an official of the North Korean government.

* Ryu Jin and Kang Ryong are Komid officials operating in Syria and are officials of the North Korean government.

* Kim Kwang Chun is a Korea Tangun Trading Corp. representative in Shenyang, China, and an official of the North Korean government.

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