The US has imposed sanctions on North Korean leader Kim Jong-un for inflicting "intolerable cruelty and hardship" on millions of people. On Wednesday (6 July), Washington directly sanctioned the reclusive leader for the first time.

In what is considered a symbolic move to pressurise Pyongyang to scale down their defiant acts, the US held Kim directly responsible for human rights abuse against millions of North Koreans.

Along with him, the US Treasury has also blacklisted 10 top North Korean officials and five entities. The list includes Choe Pu Il, minister of people's security, Ri Song Chol, senior official with the people's security ministry, and Kang Song Nam, another top authority with the ministry of state security.

"Under Kim Jong-Un, North Korea continues to inflict intolerable cruelty and hardship on millions of its own people, including extrajudicial killings, forced labour, and torture," said Adam J Szubin, acting under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.

"The actions taken today ... highlight the U.S. government's condemnation of this regime's abuses and our determination to see them stopped."

The blacklisted parties were recommended by the State Department to the US Congress on human rights. The US said that the prisons that operate under Pyongyang's ministry of state hold between 80,000 and 120,000 inmates. Sexual abuse, torture, slavery, starvation and executions are rampant in the prisons, Washington claimed.

North Korea is already under heavy economic sanctions over its nuclear programme. The additional measures would put more pressure on the regime, although it is unclear whether the sanctions would have any genuine impact on the North Korean leadership.

"But that doesn't mean this still isn't the right thing to do and it doesn't mean that it still isn't the right thing for us to continue to pursue," State Department spokesperson John Kirby said, according to BBC.

Kim Jong-Un
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, along with top authorities, sanctioned by the US Reuters