Dealing with North Korea brings to mind Sisyphus, the mythological Greek king condemned for eternity to roll a stone up a hill, only to watch it roll back down. Whatever the U.S. does, Kim Jong-un again will fire missiles, test nukes, and threaten to lay waste to his enemies.
Now the Obama administration has applied sanctions to him personally, though for human rights violations, not security concerns. The State Department explained that Kim was “ultimately responsible” for what it termed “North Korea’s notorious abuses of human rights.”
There are many, of course. The so-called Democratic People’s Republic of Korea ain’t a nice place for anyone other than the Kim family and friends.
Now any property owned by Kim and ten of his top officials in the U.S. will be frozen. And Americans will be prohibited from doing business with them. The administration predicted that “Lifting the anonymity of these functionaries may make them think twice from time to time when considering a particular act of cruelty.” Seriously?
The North’s abuses are great and the American frustrations are real. Unfortunately, imposing penalties without impact won’t turn Kim into a born-again humanitarian. And his subordinates more likely fear a god-king who has executed some 400 of his own officials, including his uncle, than the prospect of their name ending up on a list in Foggy Bottom.
This is feel good policy at its worst.