No statues for sale.
Photo: Bjørn Christian Tørrissen via Wikimedia Commons
No statues for sale. Photo: Bjørn Christian Tørrissen via Wikimedia Commons

The United Nations Security Council has issued a wide range of sanctions against North Korea, including entities and individuals, for pursuing nuclear and ballistic missile programs in defiance of UN resolutions.

The United States, Japan and South Korea have also issued sanctions on North Korea, but they are not binding on other countries.

The United Nations has blacklisted 39 North Korean individuals and 42 entities, which are subject to a travel ban and asset freeze.

UN member states are obliged to enforce the sanctions, which are far-reaching and comprehensive. However, many include grey areas and exceptions which are subject to interpretation.

The following UN sanctions are currently in force:


North Korea is under a total UN arms embargo. The sale of all arms and related materiel is banned. Any financial transactions related to the procurement of North Korean arms are also included under the sanctions.

The embargo has been in place since 2006 and was expanded in 2009 to include small arms and light weapons. North Korea is also prohibited from selling helicopters under UN sanctions.

Coal & minerals

Under U.N. sanctions, North Korea is banned or partially banned from selling coal, iron, iron ore, gold, titanium ore, vanadium ore, copper, nickel, silver, zinc and rare earth minerals.

Coal exports are allowed up to a maximum of $400.87 million or 7.5 million metric tons a year, whichever is lower, provided UN member states do not purchase the coal from a sanctioned entity, and can prove that the coal is for “livelihood purposes.”

China, North Korea’s biggest trade partner, said in February it would suspend all imports of coal from North Korea for the rest of the year as part of its efforts to implement the sanctions.

Externally-sourced coal which transits through the North Korean city of Rason, where Russia maintains a warm-water port, is exempt from the ban.

Sales of North Korean copper, nickel, silver and zinc are completely banned under UN sanctions.


Only sales of aviation fuel, jet fuel and rocket fuel to North Korea are banned under UN sanctions.

The ban does not apply to North Korean civilian aircraft, including state airline Air Koryo. There are no restrictions on crude oil or other oil products.


Any financial services which contribute to North Korea’s banned missile and nuclear programs, or help Pyongyang evade sanctions, are banned by the United Nations.

Member states are prohibited from opening branches, subsidiaries or offices of North Korean banks. Joint ventures, ownership, or correspondent banking relationships with North Korean banks.

Member states are required to expel and repatriate any individuals working for a North Korean bank or institution on their territory, and limit the number of bank accounts for North Korean diplomatic missions.


UN member states are required to de-register any vessel owned, operated or crewed by North Korea, meaning North Korean-owned ships cannot fly the flag of another country, which has been one way of evading detection.

Member states are also not allowed to provide insurance services to North Korean ships.

North Korea is prohibited from selling its ships under UN sanctions. It also cannot provide North Korean crews to ships from other countries.


The UN has not sanctioned North Korea’s state-owned airline, Air Koryo.

It has, however, banned the sale of aviation fuel, jet fuel and rocket fuel to North Korea, but Air Koryo and any North Korean civilian aircraft refuelling overseas are exempt from this.

UN member states are required to prohibit, inspect or deny landing of any North Korean aircraft within their territory they suspect to be carrying banned items, or taking part in any prohibited activities.

Separately, the United States has unilaterally sanctioned Air Koryo, banning its citizens from doing business with the airline. It is unclear, however, if the sanctions cover U.S. citizens using the airline to travel to North Korea for tourism.


UN member states are required to inspect any cargo destined for, coming from or brokered by North Korea, whether by air, sea, road or rail. This includes the inspection of checked or carry-on baggage of people travelling to or from North Korea.

Luxury goods

It is illegal under UN sanctions to directly or indirectly supply luxury goods to North Korea.

In the case of North Korea, the UN defines luxury goods as: Jewellery and precious stones, yachts, luxury cars, racing cars, luxury watches, snowmobiles, jet skis, recreational sports equipment, tableware worth more than $100 and rugs or tapestries worth more than $500.


The resolutions require member states to reduce the number of staff at North Korean diplomatic missions.

North Korean diplomats or consular officials are only allowed one bank account each. The use of real estate for any non-diplomatic or consular activities in member states’ territories is banned.


The training of or by North Koreans in military, police and paramilitary techniques is banned.

With the exception of medical exchanges, UN member states are not allowed to provide training or cooperation in the fields of nuclear science, aerospace, advanced manufacturing and advanced aeronautical, chemical, mechanical, electrical or industrial engineering.


The sale of North Korean statues is banned under UN sanctions.