Sanctions world first ~ US imposes sanctions against North Koreans for private sector and over cyberhack incident

By Christine Duhaime | January 2nd, 2015

Economic sanctions ordered

Today, the US announced it is imposing economic sanctions against certain individuals  and entities in North Korea over the Sony cyberhack.

The so-called Sony sanctions appears to represent the first time in history that sanctions have been imposed (a) solely in response for, or over a, private sector dispute / issue; and (b) over a cyberhacking incident.

In its statement, the US government said that the sanctions were in response to an attack on freedom of expression, enshrined in the First Amendment to the US Constitution.

The sanctions were ordered pursuant to an executive order which authorizes the Department of the Treasury to impose the sanctions. The US government also reiterated that it will respond formally to the cyberattack against North Korea at a time of its choosing and in a way that it determines is appropriate, and that the sanctions were the first part of that response.

The imposition of state-issued sanctions against entities and persons in North Korea in response to illegal conduct involving private sector raises some legal issues, including when and under what circumstances it is appropriate to consider using economic sanctions in response to illegal conduct targeted against the private sector.

Sony cyberhack

The Sony cyberhack was an incident that occurred near the end of November 2014 in which Sony Pictures Entertainment was the subject of an extensive cyberhack. In the course of the hacking incident, several movies were made available online by the hackers, as well as the personal and confidential employment information of employees that Sony had stored online. The hackers also obtained and leaked legally privileged documents. The US government concluded that the cyberhack originated from the North Korean government, hence the sanctions today.

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