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U.N. Sanctions Against North Korea: A Look Back

By Juni Kim

North Korea’s two ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile) tests last month marked an ominous milestone in the reclusive nation’s weapons programs. For the first time, North Korea demonstrated the capability of launching a missile that could reach the lower 48 states. In response to the recent tests, the United Nations Security Council passed its latest resolution sanctioning North Korea over the weekend. The resolution targets some of North Korea’s most profitable industries, including coal, iron, lead, and seafood. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said in a statement that the new sanctions package would reduce North Korean total exports by a third.

Sanctions have played a foundational part in the international community’s efforts to curtail North Korea’s weapons programs over the past decade. Each sanctions resolution was passed in response to either a nuclear or missile technology test by the North, with earlier sanctions targeting weapons materials and the more recent sanctions targeting North Korea’s trade industries. The effectiveness of such sanctions is still hotly debated in policy circles, but the advances that North Korea has made in its nuclear and missile technology in recent years are gravely undeniable. The fiery rhetoric between the U.S. and North Korea in the past few days has only further highlighted the threat that North Korea poses to U.S. security.

The graphic below shows a selected overview of sanctioned materials outlined in U.N. resolutions. The list is not meant to be comprehensive and is meant to give a general idea of what each resolution sanctioned. The resolutions are not designed to replace previous versions, but usually recall and reinforce the prior resolutions while adding new items, organizations, and individuals to the sanctioned list. It should also be noted that individual nations maintain their own unilateral sanctions against North Korea in addition to the U.N. resolutions. For the original resolution texts, you can click on the corresponding links below.

UNSCR Sanctions 2

Links to the U.N. press release on each resolution and the resolution text

UNSCR 1695 – July 15, 2006

UNSCR 1718 – October 14, 2006

UNSCR 1874 – June 12, 2009

UNSCR 2087 – January 22, 2013

UNSCR 2094 – March 7, 2013

UNSCR 2270 – March 2, 2016

UNSCR 2321 – November 30, 2016

UNSCR 2356 – June 2, 2017

UNSCR 2371 – August 5, 2017


Juni Kim is the Program Manager and Executive Assistant at the Korea Economic Institute of America. Noori Kim, an intern at KEI, made contributions to the articles. The views expressed here are the author’s alone.  

Graphic created by Juni Kim. Photo from Ashitaka San’s photostream on flickr Creative Commons.

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