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US Sanctions 7 North Korean Officials for Rights Abuses

FILE - A TV news program shows Kim Yo Jong, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's younger sister, at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Nov. 27, 2014. She was among seven North Koreans the U.S. sanctioned Wednesday.

The U.S. has imposed sanctions on seven North Korean officials, including leader Kim Jong Un's sister, for what it calls the the North's "ongoing and serious human rights abuses and censorship activities."

Two North Korean government agencies - the labor ministry and state planning commission - also were sanctioned Wednesday.

“We know who they are, we know their names, they can’t hide,” the State Department’s Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Affairs Tom Malinowski told VOA on Wednesday.

Malinowski said the U.S. does not expect the new sanctions or any aspect of Washington’s policy “will lead to immediate change in North Korea,” but hopes they will bring some modest effects.

The sanctions freeze their U.S. property and interests. U.S. citizens are generally barred from doing business with the seven North Koreans and the agencies.

"Human rights abuses in the DPRK remain among the worst in the world," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said. "The North Korean government continues to commit extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrest and detention, forced labor and torture."

Toner said as many as 120,000 people are in North Korean prison camps, including children. He also said censorship and information denial is "omnipresent."

Those sanctioned include Kim Yo Jong - Kim Jong Un's younger sister and the deputy head of North Korea's propaganda agency, which is primarily responsible for media censorship, and State Security Minister Kim Won Hong, whose ministry allegedly engages in torture, beatings, starvation, sexual assault and the murder of babies inside prison camps.