Washington Responds to Sony Hack with Sanctions Against North Korea

North Korean organizations and leading figures will no longer be able to access American banks or financial operations involving the United States. This is the first series of retaliatory measures taken by Barack Obama in response to the cyberattack on Sony Pictures, which aimed at stopping the release of the film “The Interview.”

If Hollywood is attacked, the White House will react. President Obama took action two weeks after the Sony Pictures hack became an affair of state. The president asked the Treasury Department to name people and entities controlled by North Korea for the purpose of imposing economic sanctions on them.

Specifically, 10 political representatives were identified, as well as three public organizations, all of whom have been accused of having played a role in the cyberattacks, selling illegal weapons, and other illicit activities. These parties have been forbidden access to American banks, as well as transactions with the country. Washington anticipates it will take other retaliatory measures, in addition to a series of similar financial sanctions previously taken against other organizations in North Korea for other motives.

Artists and Freedom of Speech Threatened

On Saturday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest spoke to the press about this decision. “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,” Earnest said.

A senior official in the American administration confided to Bloomberg that it was, in addition to being a direct response to Pyongyang, a message sent to all those who intended to and/or were capable of launching large scale cyberattacks. “One of the intended recipients of the message is China, which has the world’s largest cyber espionage operation and has been the main point of influence over North Korean leader Kim Jong Un”, the agency wrote, quoting this official.

Pyongyang Threatens Washington and Turns to Seoul

North Korea has already responded to these potential American sanctions with threats. At the end of December, representatives warned Washington of a counterattack “a thousand times greater” if sanctions are introduced. Denying all responsibility in this affair, North Korea has compared the President of the United States to “a monkey in a tropical forest.”

Moreover, the North Korean government, whose attempts at developing nuclear weapons are always watched by the U.N. and contribute to the country’s isolation, has taken a step toward its southern neighbor. On Dec. 31, 2014, in a video broadcast online, Kim Jung Un offered to renew dialogue with Seoul.

The Interview that Kills

The cyberattack on Sony Pictures destroyed data and shared celebrities’ private information, with the aim of prohibiting the release of the film “The Interview,” — “The interview that Kills” in French — a comedy depicting the assassination of the North Korean leader. The FBI has confirmed that they “have proof” the Pyongyang government is hiding behind this attack.

Despite some big distributors’ reluctance, Sony broadcast the film in independent cinemas and on the Internet. It has already generated several million dollars in revenue.

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